Outrage as deadly device causes major disruption in Belfast city centre
No clear motive has been established for the planting of a bomb that police say was capable of causing death or serious injury.
The alert caused major disruption to businesses after it was discovered in a densely populated part of Belfast city centre.
The viable device was spotted at the junction of Sandy Row and the Lisburn Road late on Friday night, prompting the police to evacuate several homes and businesses overnight, while Army bomb experts took steps to make the device safe.
On Saturday morning, a controlled explosion was carried out and the device was removed for further forensic examination.
The area remained sealed off until just before lunchtime on Saturday, while specialist officers carried out searches, leading to widespread traffic disruption.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. It’s not clear what the possible target was.
There have been protests about accommodation and apartments in the area in the past.
There is also a large youth hostel in the area that accommodates overseas travellers. The alert would have been the first experience of Northern Ireland for some.
A well-known Orange Hall is also close to the scene.
The lodge there recently made a formal complaint about Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott’s attendance at the funeral of murdered Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr.
The alert also hit businesses in the area which attracts thousands of revellers every weekend.
The manager of Dominos Pizza on the Lisburn Road told the Belfast Telegraph that on Friday night the company had to send home 15 drivers and seven in-store staff.
“It was crazy,” Timothy Rogers said. “We really could do without this happening right outside the shop. It was very stressful for staff and everyone concerned.
“Customers were left disappointed and we also lost out on takings from a time when we are usually very busy.”
Ann-Marie Brown, manager of Bishops restaurant in Bradbury Place, said she had to send home eight staff and close the business on one of their busiest trading nights.
“Our shop is completely glass-fronted, so it’s not like we could pull the shutters down and hope for the best,” she said. “We are open until 2am and it is always one of our busiest nights.
“Nobody wants to deal with that sort of thing now.
“You just don’t expect it to be happening any more.”
South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell said it was unacceptable that workers were kept from their place of employment on Saturday and that those responsible for placing the bomb have “no role to play in this society” while committing such acts.
“Businesses in Belfast, and in Bradbury Place where many bars and restaurants are located, are fighting hard against the current economic tide and do not need the added pressure of competing against viable devices,” the SDLP man added.
Inspector Eugene King from Donegall Pass thanked residents and business owners for their patience during the alert.
He said: “This was a viable device which was capable of causing death or serious injury and I would appeal to the community for information about the people who left this deadly device in the heart of our city.”
Anyone with information can contact detectives in south Belfast on 0845 600 8000 or anonymously via the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.