Belfast Telegraph

Vigilant ex-officer thwarted blast

A former policeman and his 12-year-old daughter escaped death or serious injury after he thwarted a booby trap car bomb attack in Northern Ireland.

The ex-officer discovered the viable device attached to the under-side of his vehicle as he was about to drive his child to school in east Belfast this morning.

Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process have been blamed for the murder bid, with the PSNI revealing the un-detonated explosive bore "striking similarities" to other car bombs planted by the extremist groups in the past.

It was found by the former officer, who left the service a number of years ago, as he performed a routine security check on his vehicle outside his home on Kingsway Park in the Tullycarnet area of Dundonald.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw said the man's vigilance had undoubtedly averted a tragedy.

"The former officer is a family man and his 12-year-old daughter was with him and was certainly within close proximity," he said.

"That adds a very significant and stark element to this whole thing."

The PSNI commander urged all serving and former security force members to take heed of the incident and be on the look out for similar devices.

He added: " I would ask everybody to pause and reflect on the significance of what I am saying. This was somebody going about their daily business, getting up on a Friday morning, taking their kids to school, which I am sure all of us do on many occasions, and yet they could have been facing tragedy had they got into the car and that device exploded and either killed or seriously injured them.

"I need people to think about that because there are those out in the community who know who is doing this. We need that information brought forward."

Dissidents have killed two policemen, two soldiers and a prison officer in the last five years.

In 2011, freshly-qualified constable Ronan Kerr, 25, was killed when a booby trap bomb detonated under his car outside his house in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

There have been a series of other failed car bomb attempts on security force members.

A number have been perpetrated in predominantly unionist neighbourhoods in east Belfast - areas once considered relatively safe places for security force members to settle and live.

Meanwhile in recent weeks, four viable letter bombs have been posted to senior police officers, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and an office of the Public Prosecution Service.

Mr Grimshaw said the level of threat posed by the groups remained classified as severe.

He revealed the early assessment of the Army Technical Officers who defused the device.

"I can say that army bomb experts do confirm that there are striking similarities between previous devices that we have seen used by dissident republicans, so clearly that's a significant line of inquiry, but at this stage it is early days."

The officer stressed the need for the public to help in the fight against the dissidents.

"We are on the cusp of Remembrance weekend and we could have been facing a very stark Remembrance weekend by yet again witnessing terrible events in Northern Ireland that we have seen all too much over the years, so my appeal to the community is come forward and help us - help us to defeat those small minority who are intent on wreaking violence on this community."

Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness reacted to the latest incident after emerging from a scheduled political meeting in Armagh with Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

"There are some elements of our society who have not caught the public mood that wants to move forward and see progress made," said Mr Robinson.

"There are people that want to drag us back. Politically they will not break the progress that has been made, we will continue to work together to make a better community for the people that live here."

Commenting on the number of attacks in his east Belfast constituency, the Democratic Unionist leader said: "If a pattern is developing I hope that helps the PSNI apprehend people."

He added: "It is to be regretted that there are still Neanderthals out there who believe that this is an appropriate way for them to advance."

Mr McGuinness said the Stormont Executive was going to ensure the dissidents did not succeed.

"The best way that we can prevent those involved in these types of activities is to make it clear to every citizen on the island who supports the peace process that they have a duty and responsibility to pass on whatever information they have," he said.

Mr Kenny reiterated the Republic's support for the police's activities to thwart terrorism.

Mr Gilmore said: "We are determined, as political leaders, that we want to move on, we are determined that we are not going to be driven back to the past."

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford condemned those behind the failed murder bid.

"Those behind this murder attempt have once again shown an utter disregard for human life, not only for the life of someone who served the community but also his family and others living in the area," he said.

"These devices are unstable and do not discriminate when they cause injury or death.

"I commend the vigilance of the former officer. Without it we could be facing a very different scenario.

"In recent weeks we have seen letter bombs, pipe bombs and mortars as these misguided individuals try to cause death and destruction.

"Fortunately they have not been successful. They need to understand that the community at large does not support them and that their actions will not advance whatever cause they claim."

Chair of the NI Policing Board Anne Connolly said: "The continued vigilance of this former officer has prevented tragedy and devastation.

"Bringing terror to a family home and a residential area is unjustifiable and I urge anyone with information to pass it to the police."


From Belfast Telegraph