Belfast Telegraph

Families are forced to flee homes after bomb found in north Belfast security alert

By Allan Preston

Families were forced from their homes early yesterday morning after a bomb was left in an abandoned car in north Belfast.

Following a tip-off about the suspect vehicle, police gathered on the Westlink at around 1am on Monday before moving in towards the scene in a massive security operation.

The grey Volkswagen Golf spray-painted with the words AAD (Action Against Drugs) was discovered on North Queen Street.

During the operation a police helicopter hovered overhead as officers armed with rifles positioned themselves on the Westlink bridge overlooking North Queen Street.

As the road was cordoned off, officers ordered an immediate evacuation of the area, with residents living between Brougham Street and Great George's Street asked to leave their homes overnight.

Army Ammunition Technical Officers arrived by 3am, with a robot deployed to investigate the grey car, which had its windows smashed and was covered in white spray paint. Sources told the Belfast Telegraph a number of controlled explosions were carried out at the time, with the loud noises reverberating through the empty streets.

The police cordon continued throughout the night, causing traffic chaos for morning commuters using the busy route.

The PSNI said a device was recovered from the scene for further examination.

Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee condemned those responsible for the security alert, saying they were "at war" with the local community.

"A number of homes have been evacuated and motorway traffic has been affected by this alert on North Queen Street," he said.

"A car was attacked in the local area and those responsible had left a suspect device in the car.

"This disruption to the local community is unacceptable.

"Incidents like these need to stop. There is no place for it in our society.

"Those behind these attacks need to end their war with the community."

Mr Magee said that the early morning disruption had caused added inconvenience for young families, with one mother forced to leave her home with a six-week-old baby, as well as the closure of a nursery school. Republican vigilante group AAD first came to prominence after claiming responsibility for the murder of low-level drug dealer Danny McKay in Newtownabbey in 2012.

It also murdered pizza delivery driver Dan Murray in Divis in 2015.

It has been described as a "proxy gang" set up by the IRA.

Detective Inspector Paul Rowland said: "I want to thank local people and the wider community for their patience and understanding throughout the operation, which was necessary to ensure the safety of local residents and those travelling in and around the area."

He also issued an appeal for anyone with information about the incident to contact police.

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