Three-day security alert over anti-police weapon ends in west Belfast
A three-day security alert in west Belfast has come to an end.
On Monday police were alerted a suspect device had been left in the Bell Steel Road/ Pantridge Road area, with searches carried out and the police helicopter deployed.
The area was secured, and a full clearance operation put into place on Tuesday morning.
After an investigation by anti-terrorism officers an explosively formed projective - known as an 'EFP' - was discovered in the area. This weapon is designed to attack armoured vehicles and kill those inside.
The weapon has been made safe and taken away for further examination.
Speaking about the alert, PSNI Belfast District Commander, Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts said: "While this device was clearly designed to kill or seriously injure police officers serving the local community in west Belfast it was left in a position where there is every possibility that it could have killed or maimed members of the public.
"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. 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.
"I would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding during the course of this protracted security operation. Our primary aim throughout the course of this operation has been to keep the local community safe. I understand the security operation caused significant disruption to people in the area, but it was required in order to keep people safe.
"The overwhelming number of people in the community do not want this type of activity and we as a police service will continue to work to bring those responsible before the courts. Responsibility for this incident lies squarely on the reckless individuals who placed this device in a built up residential area."
An investigation into the incident by the Serious Crime Branch has begun.
The PSNI has said it is aware of a claim of responsibility for planting the device, and this will form part of their investigation.
Responsibility for the device has been claimed by a new dissident republican group calling itself 'Arm na Poblachta' (Army of the Republic).
During the alert, Pantridge Road, Bell Steel Road, Pembroke Loop Road and Brians Well Road were closed to traffic.
The PSNI has asked specifically for the public to come forward with information about anyone they might have seen at the junction of Skyline Drive and the Bellsize Road at around 11.10am on Monday.
Anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the Pantridge Roiad/Brian's Well Road between Friday and Monday is also asked to come forward.
The PSNI can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101, quoting the reference 865 with the date 30/10/2017. Alternatively the public can call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Responding to the alert, chairperson of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland Mark Lindsay said: "It’s bad enough that we have dissident republicans still wedded to murdering Police Officers and causing untold misery for the local community.
"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. They, too, should be made amenable and handed down meaningful prison sentences."
Secretary of State James Brokenshire condemned the "attempted act of terror".
He said: “On Monday, police investigated reports an explosive device had been left by people who want to murder. Since Monday police, along with the Army's bomb squad, have worked tirelessly to keep people safe and prevent this device exploding.
"I am very glad to say that they have succeeded, an act of terror has been avoided and lives have been saved. I would encourage anyone with information about this foiled attack to share it with the police."
Belfast Telegraph Digital