Belfast bomb plot could have ended in carnage, says MLA
A mortar bomb abandoned by dissident republicans in west Belfast could have killed indiscriminately, it was claimed last night.
Ulster Unionist MLA and former soldier Doug Beattie warned that the horizontal rocket-type device found near Poleglass, which could pierce armour, could have caused untold carnage.
"Anyone who knows anything about explosives knows that a horizontal rocket is a mortar designed to take out vehicles, it is an indiscriminate weapon," said Mr Beattie.
"If it misses its target, it doesn't stop, it just keeps going so who knows what devastation this could have caused.
"Whichever career terrorist planted this is an absolute disgrace, they could have killed men, women and children within their own community."
The device was uncovered after a three-day security operation and PSNI Belfast district commander, Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts, said the device was designed to kill police officers.
Detectives from Serious Crime Branch are investigating whether a new dissident terrorist group calling itself 'Arm na Poblachta' (Army of the Republic) are behind the attack after a coded call to a local media outlet claiming responsibility.
He said: "Those responsible have shown callous disregard for the safety of members of the public and the police officers serving this community.
"We are extremely fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured but I can assure the local community that police officers will continue to go about their duty and this will not deflect us from doing our job."
Families were forced to leave their homes as the significant security operation was launched on Monday afternoon.
The police helicopter was deployed before a full clearance operation got under way, leading to the discovery of the device which was made safe by army bomb experts before being taken away for forensic examination.
It is not known when exactly the "extremely dangerous" object was abandoned in the busy residential area, but Chief Supt Roberts has appealed for anyone who saw anything suspicious between Friday morning and Monday morning in the area of Pantridge Road and Brian's Well Road to come forward.
He specifically urged witnesses who saw anyone in a public payphone at the junction of Bellsize Road and Skyline Drive in Lisburn between 11.10am and 11.15am on Monday to contact police.
Mr Roberts said that, while the risk to police officers is ongoing, he does not believe there is a heightened threat and thanked the local community for their patience and support.
Chairperson of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, called for the "full co-operation" of the community in order to "root out" those responsible.
"It's bad enough that we have dissident republicans still wedded to murdering police officers and causing untold misery for the local community," he said.
"Just as bad is the number of people behind them who assembled the IED, know where parts were sourced and know who was responsible for it and where it was put together.
"They're just as guilty as the murderous thugs who abandoned it in a busy area and they, too, should be made amenable and handed down meaningful prison sentences."
Mr Lindsay urged the wider community to realise that the "faceless would-be attackers have nothing to offer people" and said their only "stock in trade is misery, disruption and fear".
He added: "Only through concerted co-operation with the police will we be able to rid society of the scourge.
"These people don't speak for the community which they subjected to days of upset and inconvenience.
"Their outdated and warped view on life needs to be emphatically rejected and I would appeal to people to work with the police to bring those responsible to justice."
Sinn Fein MLA Orlaithi Flynn also condemned those responsible and urged anyone with information to go to the police.
"They have caused three days of disruption and shown no regard whatsoever for the local community," she said.
"People are sick, sore and tired of being placed in danger by groups at war with the local community."
Witnesses should contact detectives on 101 and quote reference 865 30/10/17.