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Security alert at Catholic churches in Newtownabbey declared hoaxes

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Army bomb experts attending the security alert at St Mary's on the Hill church on the Carnmoney Road in Glengormley. Pic: Pacemaker.

Army bomb experts attending the security alert at St Mary's on the Hill church on the Carnmoney Road in Glengormley. Pic: Pacemaker.

Army bomb experts attending the security alert at St Mary's on the Hill church on the Carnmoney Road in Glengormley. Pic: Pacemaker.

Security alerts at two Catholic churches in Newtownabbey have both been declared a hoaxes.

In the first alert, army bomb disposal officers were called to St Mary's on the Hill Church on Carnmoney Road on the outskirts of north Belfast.

Residents were evacuated and a controlled explosion was carried out on a suspect object before being declared a hoax.

The object has been removed for further examination and residents were allowed to return to their homes.

The second alert, at St Mary's Star of the Sea Church on Whitehouse Park, was also declared to be a hoax after army bomb disposal officers examined a suspicious object.

Inspector Paul McCarron said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of this area for their understanding this evening. We understand that such disruption can be frustrating and unsettling and we appreciate your patience and support.”

SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness condemned the alerts as sectarian attacks on an entire community.

“The security alerts at two churches in Newtownabbey are deeply disturbing. It is unacceptable to target any property for attack but to identify two Catholic churches reveals a chilling sectarian motive," he said.

“The people of Newtownabbey, and more widely across north Belfast, have rejected violence and rejected those who attempt to legitimise destruction and intimidation.

“Unfortunately this is not the first time that both of these churches have been targeted for attack. A small bomb was discovered at St Mary’s on the Hill at this time last year while St Mary’s Star of the Sea has been subjected to paint bombs, petrol bombs and pipe bombs in the last number of years."

He added: “There can be no justification for an attack on any place of worship. I would encourage anyone with any information about these incidents, or any others, to contact the police as soon as possible.”

Belfast Telegraph