Bomb attack 'could have killed children'
A bomb thrown into a crowded Belfast street injuring three policemen could have killed passing children, Chief Constable Mark Baggott said today.
One of the officers is set to undergo emergency surgery on a serious arm injury later while his two colleagues are recovering from less serious shrapnel injuries.
They and other officers were investigating a robbery at a bookmakers in Shaw's Road at around 9pm when a young man rode up on a bicycle and threw the device at them.
Appealing for information on the culprit, Mr Baggott outlined the deadly potential of the incident.
"It was a very serious attempt to maim or kill police officers and it was very serious attempt to maim or kill innocent people walking down that street," he said at police headquarters in Belfast.
"Shaw's Road last night was not an isolated place - it was a busy thoroughfare with adults, young people and children.
"People going about their lives and someone threw a deadly explosive device into a crowded thoroughfare."
While police are investigating whether the robbery was a set up to lure officers into the area, evidence suggests that it was an opportunist attack.
Mr Baggott rejected any suggestion that republican districts like west Belfast could again become 'no go' areas for the police if such murder bids continued.
"The people of west Belfast don't want that and neither do we," he said.
"There are no 'no go' areas in Northern Ireland. There are areas were we have to be careful, we value the support of the community and their understanding that sometimes we can't answer calls as quickly as we would like because of course we have to look after our colleagues - that is what people want us to do, that is what I must do - but there will be no 'no go' areas. We are here to protect people."
The region's top officer said many people in west Belfast had already come forward with information, but he stressed the need for more to get in contact.
"We need help," he said. "We do need help this morning to identify those responsible, the attack last night was absolutely reckless, there were lots of people out on the street on the night, they could have been killed.
"We want to find these people very quickly, we want the information."
Mr Baggott urged people to call the confidential Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111 or their local police station on 0845 600 8000.
He added: "I would love to see our phonelines red hot with decent people not being prepared to put up with this anymore."
Northern Ireland's Justice Minister David Ford also condemned the bomb attack.
"This was an attempt to murder police officers who were in west Belfast investigating a robbery at a local business premises.
"Murder, destruction and heartache is all that those responsible for this attack have to offer the people of Northern Ireland.
"Thankfully this attack failed in its murderous intent and I wish those officers injured a speedy recovery.
"Anyone who has any information about this sickening attack should bring it to the police."