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Cancer-stricken pensioner too ill to be moved during loyalist bomb scare

By Deborah McAleese

An elderly woman with cancer was too ill to be evacuated from her home during pipe-bomb attacks blamed on loyalists.

Sectarian tensions have risen after two attacks at a notorious flashpoint in east Belfast.

The first device was discovered before 11pm on Monday in the back garden of a house at Strand Walk in the Short Strand.

All the homes in the immediate area are believed to be occupied by pensioners. They were asked to leave by police while Army bomb squad officers carried out a controlled explosion.

However, the critically ill woman was unable to be moved.

The PSNI said the unexploded pipe-bomb "had the capacity to cause serious injury".

A second suspected device was discovered in the front garden of a house in the same street yesterday morning - hours after police had declared the area safe.

The street was closed while Army bomb experts examined the device.

One 80-year-old resident said he and his neighbours were upset at having to leave their homes because of the security alerts.

"There are only six dwellings and all are pensioners. One of them is critically ill with cancer. She couldn't be moved," he said.

The man, who has lived in the area for almost 60 years, added: "I got back home at 7am and spotted this thing in the front of my garden. Someone said they thought it was a pipe-bomb.

"We're upset, we're all pensioners, and to be told to get out and not return is not very nice."

Community representatives in Short Strand yesterday pointed the finger of blame at loyalists.

"This was down to loyalist pipe-bombers. It is very lucky someone was not hurt," one said.

The Short Strand area runs along an interface with the loyalist Newtownards Road, which has been the scene of some serious sectarian rioting in recent years.

Sinn Fein councillor Niall O Donnghaile called for calm in the wake of the alerts.

"Many Strand Walk residents are elderly and disabled. I know, as always, the community will rally around them.

"All stakeholders must double efforts for calm.

"Elderly and infirm residents, who have time and time again borne the brunt of attacks on their homes, have been badly shaken at this attack and some have had to leave their homes."

He added: "A further security alert following the discovery of a second pipe-bomb in the area has only added to the distress of local residents."

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