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Northern Ireland shopping centre worker target in crude extortion bomb bid

Man drove with device attached to car for 14 miles

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Pacemaker Press 16/01/2020 Police and ATO at the scene of a security alert  on the Lurgan Road  near Maple Park  in Crumlin , Co Antrim on Thursday evening, A number of homes have been evacuated. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 16/01/2020 Police and ATO at the scene of a security alert on the Lurgan Road near Maple Park in Crumlin , Co Antrim on Thursday evening, A number of homes have been evacuated. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 16/01/2020 Police and ATO at the scene of a security alert on the Lurgan Road near Maple Park in Crumlin , Co Antrim on Thursday evening, A number of homes have been evacuated. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A shopping centre employee was the target of a crude extortion bomb bid by a criminal gang.

The unexploded device was eventually discovered after he drove 14 miles from the Kennedy Centre in west Belfast to a wake house in the village of Crumlin. The male had gone there to pay his respects to the deceased mother of a friend.

Had the bomb detonated, dozens of mourners at the house on Maple Park could have suffered serious injuries.

Criminal sources told Sunday Life the target of the attack is an employee at the busy Kennedy Centre which is home to over 50 shops.

It is understood that the business for which he works has been at the centre of extortion attempts by a west Belfast-based crime gang. The owners refused to pay up, leading to the bomb being placed on the employee's car.

"It was a really crude device stuck to the front grilles of the car with duct tape," said a source. "The fella drove from the Kennedy Centre to the wake house in Crumlin to offer support to his grieving friend. It was only when he parked the car nearby that the bomb was noticed."

The discovery last Thursday evening sparked a security alert on the Lurgan Road at the junction of Maple Park where the wake was taking place. A number of families were forced from their homes.

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0 Police and ATO at the scene of a security alert  on the Lurgan Road  near Maple Park  in Crumlin , Co Antrim on Thursday evening. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

0 Police and ATO at the scene of a security alert on the Lurgan Road near Maple Park in Crumlin , Co Antrim on Thursday evening. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Detective Inspector Stephen Harvey said: "The device was taken away for further examination and I can confirm it contained component parts which, had the device been detonated, would have made it viable.

"Our officers and ATO (Ammunition Technical Officers) attended the scene, and a public safety operation was implemented."

The top cop accused whoever placed the device of committing a reckless act as the car travelled almost 14 miles before it was spotted. He confirmed police are following a number of lines of enquiry, one of which Sunday Life can confirm is an extortion attempt.

Several businesses and building sites in west Belfast have been targeted by dissident republicans and crime gangs, with threats for cash on the rise.

DI Harvey added: "The device may have been placed on the vehicle on the Falls Road, in the area of the Kennedy Centre, in west Belfast sometime earlier in the day and the vehicle was then driven to the Lurgan Road area where the device was subsequently discovered.

"This incident caused disruption to a number of families who had to leave their homes while we worked to make the area safe, and I want to thank those affected for their patience and co-operation."

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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