Antrim Road Bomb Nearly 'Another Omagh'

A second terrorist bomb has been made safe this week on Belfast's Antrim Road.

Police said they were only able to reopen the area on Thursday evening for the remaining people who had been moved from their homes to return - although it is understood some businesses will still be affected on Friday.

The second device was found behind a scout hall and came after police said on Wednesday that the first bomb - found outside a shop earlier this week - was an "anti-personnel device" designed to kill people.

The PSNI Cheif Constable Matt Baggott said those behind the attacks "had the same recklessness and the same mindset as those that brought about the Omagh tragedy".

"There were hundreds of people who could have been very badly hurt and killed by this device in a busy residential area, where we have children, where we have people going about their normal business," he added.

Also commenting, the Justice Minister David Ford has praised the professionalism of the police operation on the Antrim Road.

The Minister said that the actions of the police and the bomb disposal team over the last three days to protect lives contrasts sharply with those who planted the device, who were intent on causing death and injury.

David Ford said: "To abandon such a lethal device on a main arterial route, close to schools and shops, demonstrates a callous disregard for those who live and work in that area. The fact that their call said the bomb was dangerous speaks for itself.

"Police have said that hundreds of people would have walked past this device since it was planted and it is clear that if it had exploded, it would have resulted in many deaths.

"Such reckless action is beyond belief and it is because of the professionalism of the police and the bomb disposal experts that no-one has been injured," he said, last night.

The Minister also praised those who helped families forced from their homes during the disruption.

"We should not forget the efforts of those who opened their doors to provide support and shelter during the past few difficult days. I am also impressed by the resilience of those who live and work in the area and were so inconvenienced by the bomb."

On Thursday, about 50 families spent a second night out of their homes as the PSNI Commander in north Belfast said that the ongoing security alert on the city's Antrim Road could only end when it was safe.

Although many other families were able to get access to their homes 24-hours after the initial evacuation, a second object found by police is believed to be a bomb component that may have been part of the original bomb.

This led Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton to say that making sure the area was safe was a "slow, methodical, painstaking process".

"I wouldn't have taken the steps I have taken if I didn't believe there was an enormous risk, firstly to members of the public and then to my staff.

"There's been people in this community who have deliberately planted a bomb in this area and there only purpose was to murder people.

"Then you add to that the recklessness of leaving a device in an unstable condition which could have exploded," he said.

Chief Supt Hamilton also said police officers had been called to an Xtravision shop on Sunday night.

"One line of inquiry is that perhaps this bomb was in place on Sunday night for those police officers, to kill them as they went about their business," he said.

"The first call we got was on Monday afternoon and it was some 24 hours later before we got sufficient information to bring us to the Xtravision, to try and go forward and search for this bomb and make it safe."

Police have said hundreds of people would have walked past the bomb.

The alert, which is close to Antrim Road police station, began after a series of calls claiming to be from dissident republican group Oglaigh na hEireann.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds has slammed those responsible for the bomb plot: "The past few days have been a stark reminder of the sort of callous terrorism which blighted Northern Ireland for too many years.

"What started as a vague bomb warning became a suspect device requiring the evacuation of dozens of families and now we know the full extent of an apparent bomb trap designed to kill or maim police officers responding in the line of duty to a reported incident.

"After not being detonated, this explosive device was left beside a busy thoroughfare for two full days, passed by thousands of motorists and pedestrians including many children and school pupils, before the security forces were properly notified.

"Many people are now feeling shocked and upset that they were so close to this bomb abandoned by reckless terrorists. It is a huge relief that no one was hurt.

"However many families had to leave their homes and many businesses lost vital trade over the three days of this security operation. We are indebted to our security forces for their professional and thorough response whilst under the threat of secondary devices," he said.

"Collectively we must reinforce our determination not to be cowed by terrorists. In seeking to cause death and destruction, they also destroy whatever cause or purpose they seek to advance.

"They must be met with total opposition. I urge anyone with any knowledge or suspicion of who is responsible for this so-called dissident terrorism to pass that information on to the police. In so doing they will save others from the terrible consequences of future acts of violence."


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