Belfast Telegraph

Parcel bombs raise UK terror fears

Fears of a fresh terror threat are growing after the British government revealed suspicious packages sent to armed forces recruitment offices in England bore "hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism".

Four suspected explosive devices were discovered at army careers offices in Oxford, Brighton, Canterbury and the Queensmere shopping centre in Slough, anti-terror police said.

The shopping centre was temporarily evacuated, while cordons were placed close to all offices where packages have been found. Ministry of Defence bomb disposal units were also called.

No specific group has claimed responsibility, but sources told the Press Association one of the packages was stamped with a Republic of Ireland postmark. It is believed dissident republicans opposed to the peace process are behind the intimidation attempt.

Sources in Dublin indicated that two of the seven low-grade explosive parcels were sent from Ireland.

The others, it is understood, were delivered from different locations within Britain. Although they were not sophisticated, they were described as viable.

British prime minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee to discuss the suspicious parcels, which sources said were "crude" in design but "could have caused injury to others".

The latest deliveries follow packets sent to Aldershot, Hampshire, on Wednesday and another two on Tuesday to an armed forces careers office in Reading and the British Army and RAF careers office in Chatham, Kent.

Details of the letter bombs emerged hours after a pipe bomb exploded in a residential area of Newry. No one was injured in Wednesday night's blast in the Co Down town.

The latest threats have drawn widespread condemnation.

Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned those who continued to engage in violence.

Sinn Fein's Mr McGuinness said pipe bombs and letter bombs were an "attack on the peace process". He said on Twitter: "Those responsible belong to the past. Their futile acts must be condemned."

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the British Government had not "taken its eye off the ball" with Northern Ireland, adding that it remained "very high on our list of security priorities".

The official threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism is set separately for Northern Ireland and Great Britain, that is, England, Wales and Scotland.

In Northern Ireland it is "severe" and in Great Britain "moderate", meaning an attack is possible, but not likely.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Ivan Lewis said: "These devices bear the hallmarks of another attempt by dissidents to reverse the progress we have seen in Northern Ireland over the past 15 years.

"Their attempt to harm innocent people will be condemned by the people of Northern Ireland, including by those they claim to represent.

"We will give our support to the Government in taking the necessary steps to bring those responsible to justice."

Democratic Unionist deputy leader Nigel Dodds condemned those behind the bombs, saying: "Northern Ireland has turned a corner. We are moving forward and no-one wants to go back to the bad old days."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said the deliver of the packages " must also be named for what it was, a series of acts of terrorism", while t he cross-community Alliance Party also condemned those responsible.

Alliance Assembly member Stewart Dickson said: " There is no justification for these attacks. Violence has no place in our society."

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