A van abandoned outside a police station in a border town in Northern Ireland contained a 300lb bomb, police said yesterday.
The viable device left in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, on Thursday night failed to detonate and has been made safe by Army bomb disposal officers. It was blamed on dissident republican terrorists opposed to the peace process, who have launched a series of similar attacks on police and court buildings this year. Around 350 people were evacuated from their homes and had to spend the night at a nearby church and community halls.
The white Ford Transit van was left at the police station at around 10.10pm and a coded telephone warning to a Belfast newspaper claimed it would explode in an hour. Police Service of Northern Ireland Superintendent Brian Kee said his officers were still carrying out the evacuation when the 60- minute deadline elapsed but fortunately the bomb failed to go off.
"If it had detonated it would have caused widespread devastation in the village and it's very likely that lives would have been lost," he said. "An hour sounds like a long time but when you have to evacuate 350 people it's a very short period and we were still evacuating people when the hour was up."
A suspected getaway car was found burned out across the border in Co Monaghan. Mr Kee condemned those responsible as "terrorist criminals".
"They have no community support, no mandate and no idea where they are going," he said. "I would appeal to them to cease their activities. Sooner or later we will arrest them and they will face a very long time in jail."