Belfast Telegraph

Police scour area of bomb hijack

Police investigating the partial explosion of a dissident republican bomb have searched the area where the attack was launched.

Vehicle checkpoints are also to return to Belfast and the frequency of patrols will increase after a homemade explosive was used to target the city centre for pre-Christmas terror.

A terrified driver was forced to transport it to the Victoria Square shopping centre car park after masked men in boilersuits hijacked his silver Renault Laguna in a suburb in the north of the city on Sunday night.

Today's Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) operation focused on Jamaica Street in the mainly-republican Ardoyne district, close to where the driver was confronted by the gang and the 130 pound bomb placed onboard.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said: "We are all aware of the threat that is posed by terrorists.

"Everyone can play a part in helping to tackle this by remaining vigilant and by reporting any suspicious activity."

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has promised no return to the near "ring of steel" erected by the security forces in Belfast during the 30-year conflict, when many arterial routes were subjected to frequent searches - causing widespread traffic disruption - and heavily-armed soldiers and police patrolled the streets.

But he has warned of a surge in activity by dissidents opposed to the peace process who have been responsible for foiled letter bomb attacks on prominent police commanders and politicians, under-car booby traps, blast bombs and hijackings.

Sunday's explosive, contained in a barrel or keg, was placed in the back of the car and brought to the city centre . After abandoning the vehicle, the driver ran across the street to Musgrave Street police station and raised the alarm.

The Laganside court complex and dozens of shops and offices are nearby. Hundreds of people had to be evacuated from restaurants and a cinema as Army bomb disposal experts were called in. The detonator went off as they prepared to examine the car.

A US State Department spokeswoman condemned the recent "cowardly" acts of violence and pledged continued support for those who are working to build a stronger society, vibrant economy and enduring peace.

"The vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland are committed to the peace process and to living in a society free of the violence and hatred of the past," she said.

"Over the past 15 years, the people and institutions of Northern Ireland have made great progress toward peace, stability and prosperity.

"Those intent on violence will not deny Northern Ireland the opportunity to fulfil these goals."

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