We're so lucky no one was hurt by reckless pipe bomb, say police
It is only luck that saved someone from serious injury after a pipe bomb exploded in Armagh, police have said.
Four vehicles were damaged after the device detonated at a car dealership on the Cathedral Road in the Shambles area in the early hours of Sunday.
Residents were evacuated from their homes and traffic was disrupted for most of the morning in the surrounding area.
Police said a man carrying a backpack was seen nearby at around 12.30am on Sunday and that the device exploded some 10 minutes later. They described the attack as reckless.
Witness Ronan Kelly was in the area at the time of the blast.
"Some friends and I were driving past and heard a bang," he said. "I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a shot of light. We stopped and called the police."
SDLP Newry and Armagh Assembly candidate Justin McNulty condemned those behind the attack, saying: "There has been extreme disruption to families, businesses and commuters in Armagh as a result of this security alert.
"Those behind this sinister discovery have nothing to offer our community here.
"They were rejected by the people of this island, north and south, in 1998 and we continue to reject their failed philosophy today.
"Those who choose to pursue a path of violence have set themselves against the will of the Irish people. As these incidents have escalated in recent weeks, we must escalate our commitment to peace and send them a clear message - we will never be taken back.
"I've spoken to a number of people who have been evacuated as a result of this alert, including the Sisters of Charity whose faith and commitment to this community is second to none."
An Army bomb disposal team attended the scene and took remnants of the bomb away for further examination. The device exploded in the early hours, although Detective Inspector Will Tate said police only received a report that four cars had been damaged at around 7.20am.
"On further investigation it was thought that the damage was caused by an explosion," he said.
"Further reports and investigations since then lead us to believe that the explosion occurred at approximately 12.40am and that the device was left by a person carrying a backpack at approximately 12.30am. ATO have described the object as an improvised viable pipe bomb-type device. We are lucky that we are not dealing with a serious injury caused by this device and the reckless actions of the person or people behind it."
One resident said she was only told by police to leave her home nearby at noon on Sunday. "The police came to our door on Sunday afternoon and asked us to leave. They told us it could take 10 hours or more. I didn't hear anything but I understand the bomb was placed near to the car dealer."
"Around two weeks ago my car was also damaged when someone put a huge hole in the bonnet.
"I used to park it on the same road but now I don't," she added.
Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin said: "This was a particularly reckless act given that the area is a public place and anyone could have been injured by flying shrapnel from this pipe bomb device. Armagh certainly does not need this type of terrorist style activity in the city.
"I totally condemn those behind the attack and it is a relief that no one was hurt as a result of this explosion."
Police have appealed for information.