Officer targeted after New IRA heard he was football ref
A high ranking police officer who escaped a failed bomb attack last weekend was targeted after the New IRA discovered he was a junior football referee, it has been reported.
The booby trap bomb containing high powered plastic explosives had been placed under the 55-year-old officer's car as it was parked outside his home.
The officer had completed a round of golf at Shandon Park Golf Club before the device was spotted the following morning and the golf club evacuated.
In a statement issued to the Irish News using a recognised code word and signed T O'Neill, the New IRA said it planted the under-car bomb.
Two getaway cars used by the terrorists, one of which had a Dublin registration, were later set alight in the Ardoyne area in north Belfast.
Following the incident, police launched a cross-border investigation.
Detectives probing the foiled murder bid suspect the officer was identified by dissidents who may have followed him home on at least one occasion after a football game involving a club from a republican area.
A PSNI source told Sunday Life: "The amateur football angle is a major line of inquiry at this stage. The officer would have refereed games involving teams and supporters from republican areas.
"It is very likely this is how he was targeted."
The device, which police have described as "sophisticated", was said to have contained a motion-activated mercury tilt switch which would detonate with sudden movement.
The New IRA has since launched an internal inquiry into why the device failed to blow up.
The terror gang has maintained that the device didn't explode as the officer drove along level roads.
However, it has since emerged that his car was able to drive for more than a mile without the bomb exploding along a route which included six speed bumps.
His Jeep SUV had to pass four speed bumps on Shandon Park before jolting over two more ramps at the east Belfast golf club.
There is major suspicion in republican circles that the device could have been tampered with by an informant before being attached to the vehicle.
The New IRA has also hit back at former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Alan McQuillan for rubbishing their claims over why the car bomb failed to explode.
"There are lots of reasons why it didn't go off, but flat terrain is not one of them," the former officer said.
A New IRA source told the Sunday World it would be foolish to "underestimate" them.
Meanwhile, it has been claimed that other police officers were targeted by the New IRA last weekend.
A source told the Sunday World that aside from the officer in the Shandon Park incident two more viable bombs and a third hoax were also planted.
Dissident sources told the newspaper that another of those targeted was a trainee officer.
Another device was planted under the car of an established officer in Belfast while a third, a hoax, was left at the officer's home.
The murder bid has led to a major review of the personal security of PSNI officers and their after-work activities.
The New IRA, which said it was responsible for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry in April, has also been holding meetings to discuss plans for all dissident groups to merge and form one united organisation.