Belfast Telegraph

MI5 under scrutiny after Belfast golf club bomb attack, claims security expert

The bomb under the officer’s car
The bomb under the officer’s car
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

An ex-policeman has claimed that an attempted bomb attack on a serving police officer over the weekend presents "a clear challenge" to MI5 as he warned about the dangers of routine.

Former deputy head of the criminal investigation department and ex-PSNI Detective Superintendent Alan Mains (58) said he is in no doubt that our intelligence services and apparatus will be under intense scrutiny.

"Those who serve in this capacity work relentlessly around the clock to prevent things like this and they will be asking how this happened," he said.

"This will challenge them and they will see it as such."

It comes after detectives from the PSNI's Terrorism Investigation Unit renewed their appeal for information about two vehicles they suspect were used to transport a "sophisticated" IED across the city.

It was discovered underneath an off-duty policeman's vehicle at 1pm after he completed a round of golf at Shandon Park Golf Club on Saturday.

The green Skoda Octavia with registration 01 D 78089 and a silver-coloured Saab 95, registration NFZ 3216, were discovered burnt out in Etna Drive in the early hours of the morning.

Anyone who saw either car in the area of Green Road, Knockhill Park, Upper Newtownards Road, Shandon Park and Shandon Park Golf Club any time between 10pm on Friday and 7.30am the following day has been asked to contact police.

But now detectives wish to speak to anyone - including taxi drivers with dash-cams - who saw the cars in the Ballyhackamore or Upper Newtownards Road area between the busy time of midnight and 2am on Saturday.

"This was the early hours of the morning when people will have been out socialising," Detective Superintendent Sean Wright said.

"This was an appalling, cowardly attack on not just a police officer but on the local community and Northern Ireland as a whole."

The Belfast Telegraph understands from one security source that police suspect a "small but growing" number of young republicans from Ardoyne were responsible.

"These young people are considered to be absolutely bloodthirsty by top republicans," they said.

"They are considered to be hard work and represent a serious threat, there's no doubt about that.

"These boys would take anybody's life, no matter what uniform they are wearing."

It is believed that police are focusing on the 20-minute route from the republican stronghold in north Belfast to where the bomb was planted in east Belfast.

"It's very easy - but cowardly - to drive over, plant a bomb and walk away into the night," a security source added.

Mr Mains, who now directs SecuriGroup, one of the UK's leading security companies, warned that dissident republicans "do their homework" before they go in for the kill.

"They pick the ones they feel they can get away with, but routine is a big issue," Mr Mains said.

"They prey on vulnerability, but human nature is what it is and even with the best intentions we all slip into a routine.

"We all have to do the school run, commute to and from work and take part in our sports and hobbies.

"The security services intercept the majority of threats and will be analysing how this got through - it's a reminder that vigilance is crucial."

Mr Mains said the officer who was targeted will require a lot of support from his colleagues as he now battles against the inevitable mental anguish.

He added: "It's quite silent and it's quite deadly - even when intercepted the impact can be devastating."

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