Belfast Telegraph

Fears over 'fatal dissident bomb'

It is only a matter of time before dissident republicans responsible for a string of bomb attacks claim another victim, a senior police officer warned.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris hit out after members of the public narrowly escaped injury when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in Londonderry at 3.20am on Tuesday.

A taxi driver had been hijacked in the city and forced to drive his car to the station after a device containing 200lbs of homemade explosive was loaded on board.

A telephoned bomb warning from the dissident Real IRA group told police the device would go off in 45 minutes, but it detonated in half that time while the area surrounding Strand Road station was still being evacuated.

While senior politicians condemned the attack, Mr Harris said it was a miracle no one was injured.

"A substantial device was delivered in a hijacked vehicle, a hijacked taxi which had been taken earlier in the evening - a substantial device which has caused damage to the station but quite substantial damage also to other properties," said Mr Harris, who is also the head of crime operations for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

"Again we have been very lucky that there hasn't been casualties or fatalities in this type of reckless attack, and these are reckless attacks, the warning times are insufficient to ensure safe clearance and we have to be very concerned that it's only a matter of time before people are very seriously injured or even indeed killed in these types of murderous attacks."

He said the dissident threat remained high, with 30 attacks recorded so far this year. But the senior officer said police had made 147 arrests in 2010, resulting in 38 charges, compared with 19 charges last year.

He added: "A major investigation team will be dealing with this investigation and carry it forward and that is to ensure that every evidential opportunity is pursued."

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