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Justice Minister Ford slams booby trap attack on police officer

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An army bomb disposal expert moves in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

An army bomb disposal expert moves in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

Paul Faith

An army bomb disposal expert moves in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

An army bomb disposal expert moves in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

Paul Faith

The Upper Newtownards Road in Belfast was closed as army technical experts dealt with a 'viable bomb' found under a police officer's car.

The Upper Newtownards Road in Belfast was closed as army technical experts dealt with a 'viable bomb' found under a police officer's car.

An army bomb disposal expert prepares to move in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

An army bomb disposal expert prepares to move in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

An army bomb disposal expert prepares to move in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

An army bomb disposal expert prepares to move in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

Paul Faith

An army bomb disposal expert moves in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday December 30, 2012. A viable bomb has been found under the car of an off-duty policeman in Northern Ireland. The booby trap device was detected around 2pm this afternoon on the vehicle parked off the busy Newtownards Road in east Belfast. See PA story ULSTER Bomb. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

An army bomb disposal expert moves in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday December 30, 2012. A viable bomb has been found under the car of an off-duty policeman in Northern Ireland. The booby trap device was detected around 2pm this afternoon on the vehicle parked off the busy Newtownards Road in east Belfast. See PA story ULSTER Bomb. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Paul Faith

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An army bomb disposal expert moves in to examine a booby trap bomb found under a policeman's car in Belfast.

A thwarted car bomb murder bid on a policeman in Northern Ireland was an attack on the entire community, Stormont's Justice Minister has said.

Police have blamed dissident republicans for placing the booby trap device under the officer's car in east Belfast.

They said the unexploded viable bomb, which was discovered by the off duty policeman yesterday afternoon, was clearly intended to kill.

His car was parked at his home on the Upper Newtownards Road - a busy arterial route into the city centre.

The scene, which was sealed off until late last night amid an extensive security and forensic operation, is close to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) headquarters at Knock and the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

Justice Minister David Ford condemned those responsible.

"Fortunately, due to the officer's commendable vigilance, the attempt on his life was not successful," he said.

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"Let us be clear. This was an attack not only on a police officer and his family but on our whole community. The officer was serving the community; he was working for all of us.

"It is ironic that this latest attack was carried out so close to Stormont, where those who are democratically elected seek to move matters forward through debate.

"The people responsible for this and other recent attacks have no mandate and speak for no-one. They need to recognise the futility of their campaign and respect the wishes of the vast majority of our community who want an end to all violent acts."

Residents of nearby homes were evacuated in the alert. A local church opened its doors to offer shelter while army technical officers (ATO) worked to make the scene safe.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said it was very fortunate no one was killed or injured.

"Initial investigations would indicate that this was a viable device placed below an officer's car some time in the last 48 hours," he said last night.

"It was clearly intended to kill the police officer.

"His family and neighbours in the vicinity were also put at risk of serious harm.

"Obviously there are people out there who are still intent on causing murder and mayhem."

Dissidents have repeatedly targeted security force members in recent years.

In November long-serving prison officer David Black, 52, was shot dead in a motorway ambush in Co Armagh as he drove to work.

A group styling itself the "new IRA" claimed that attack. The faction was formed in the summer when a number of splinter groups joined forces.

In April 2011 newly qualified police officer Ronan Kerr, 25, died when a dissident booby trap car bomb exploded under his vehicle at his home in Omagh.

Mr Hamilton appealed for anyone with information on the latest murder bid to come forward.

"Attacks on police officers are attacks on the entire community and cannot be allowed to continue," he said.

"We know there are people within our communities who know who did this, we know there are people out there who know exactly what is being planned.

"My plea to them is not to allow this small minority to drag us back to the past."




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