Dissidents suspected of bomb attack
Dissident republican extremists may have been behind a failed bomb attack in Belfast, a senior police officer has said.
The explosive device was aimed at a patrol vehicle last night, but missed its target and detonated in mid-air.
Belfast City District Commander, Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw said: "Clearly it does bear the hallmarks of similar dissident types of attacks in the past.
"But we will rule nothing in and nothing out at this stage."
Detectives believe the bomb was either thrown or launched at officers in a Land Rover at Victoria Parade in the staunchly republican New Lodge area of North Belfast at about 10.30pm. No-one was injured.
It did not hit the armoured police vehicle, but a silver Peugot car which was parked nearby had its front windscreen smashed and dashboard damaged.
Families living in Victoria Parade were moved from their homes as Army technical officers examined the scene and subsequently spotted the damaged vehicle.
Detectives are investigating whether officers, who were responding to burglary call at Grainne House, had been lured into the area ahead of the attack.
Mr Grimshaw said he had no doubt the bomb bid was another deliberate attempt to kill police.
He added: "I am very grateful that we are not looking at severe casualties for both police officers and members of the local community.
"This was a totally reckless act.
"We very often stand in front of the cameras and talk about the callous disregard for life on the part of those who carry out this form of attack.
"But, here we have clear evidence of what that looks like. If a resident had been sitting in that car with a small child or whatever, somebody would have been either killed or very seriously injured.
"There is no question in my mind this was another attempt to try and kill or seriously injure police officers with total disregard for anybody else in the vicinity."
The exact nature of the explosive device has not been disclosed. However, shrapnel and other parts of the bomb found inside the Peugot have been removed for forensic examination, Mr Grimshaw revealed.
Sinn Fein MLA for North Belfast Gerry Kelly described the attack as reckless.
He said: "There is no place for these armed gangs in the community and once again residents' lives have been hugely disrupted in the course of this incident.
"The New Lodge is a community that has suffered some of the worst tragedies during the conflict and nobody wants a return to those days."
Andy Allen, the Ulster Unionist Party's spokesman for the area, said those responsible showed a callous disregard for the safety of the community.
The former Royal Irish Regiment soldier said: "This was a disgusting attack on police officers who go out each day to serve and protect the entire community and it must be condemned unequivocally.
"It is very fortunate no-one was killed or seriously injured."
An extensive police cordon was erected in the area as the security operation continued for most of the day.
Some residents on the staunchly republican estate said they were not surprised an attack had taken place.
Barry Brown, 31, said: "I heard it but thought it was a shot.
"I went on Facebook to see what had happened and I heard it was a pipe bomb or something.
"This place is wild."
Another 42-year-old man, who declined to be named, said: "I heard the thud and initially thought it was the child falling out of bed but when I went outside for a smoke I could see the police running into their Land Rovers and then they sped off.
"Shortly after that, about 15 minutes later, the (police) helicopter was up and then the whole place was sealed off.
"To be honest, I am not shocked at all."
Meanwhile, police said three viable pipe bombs found in Londonderry were designed to kill or maim.
They were discovered by a member of the public on a riverbank close to a pub car park in Drumahoe at about 10.30am.
PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said it was unclear whether they had been abandoned or were being hidden for use later.
"At this stage it is not clear whether the devices had been abandoned in the area or left for later collection," he said.
"This is an area used by fishermen or people at the car park and we believe that they posed a real danger to anyone who would have disturbed them.
"It is too early to apportion responsibility or to say who a likely target may have been."