A bomb made of C4 military explosives and planted at the rear of a row of shops on Belfast's Falls Road has been defused by an IRA Volunteer.
According to information An Phoblacht has received, the bomb was of a type that was technically in advance of anything loyalists had used in the past, and as the explosives were C4 high explosives used by the British Army, a British dirty tricks operation is suspected.
The bomb, which was discovered by a local man on Friday 3 March, was placed behind a row of shops and directly at the rear of a building housing the newly opened Republican Sinn Féin (RSF) office near the Beechmount area of the city.
The bomb was placed behind the RSF building early on the morning of 3 March, just 24 hours before the shop was due to be opened by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and at a time when workers were renovating the building.
In an interview with An Phoblacht, a spokesperson for Óglaigh na hÉireann outlined events leading up to and including the defusing of the bomb.
Phoblacht: How was the device discovered?
IRA: A local resident spotted a man acting suspiciously in an entry behind a row of shops which face onto the Falls Road. He watched the man leave the scene and followed him to a car which then left the area.
The resident then returned to the entry and noticed a black bin liner lying up against one of the buildings. It was bulky and obviously was wrapped around something. He removed the bag and saw a blue toolbox. He took the toolbox out, opened it, and immediately realised that it contained a bomb. He left it down and moved away.
AP: How did Óglaigh na hÉireann become involved?
IRA: A local resident contacted one of our Volunteers, who went to the scene. He was told that the suspect device was at the rear of the RSF Centre. He went into the building and informed people there of the discovery. He opened the back door to observe the device. He examined the toolbox and confirmed that it was a primed bomb.
He began to clear the area and contacted other IRA personnel, who came to the scene.
One of these Volunteers was an experienced engineer. This Volunteer ensured that the area was cleared properly as there were a number of workers and residents in and around the scene.
He was informed that the toolbox containing the bomb had been opened and moved. After a closer examination of the box, he was satisfied that it did not contain any anti-handling devices.
He proceeded to remove the detonator from the explosives. He lifted the actual explosive from the box and gave it to another Volunteer, who placed it a safe distance away. He cut the connecting wires from the detonator to the power source.
At this point he felt that the bomb was rendered safe. He then removed the battery and discovered two larger batteries designed for use in motorbikes. He cut all the wires leading to the power source and removed the electrical switches from the box.
At this stage, IRA personnel had monitored the area and there was no enemy personnel spotted and a decision was made to remove the device from the scene for a closer examination of its component parts.
AP: What did that examination reveal?
The bomb was contained in a blue plastic tool box which was 16 inches long, eight inches wide and five inches deep. There was approximately two pounds of C4 explosives, normally manufactured for military use. It had a single electrical detonator.
The timing mechanism was that often used for home heating systems. It also had three batteries, one Panasonic 9v and two Yazuu motorbike batteries.
In technical terms, it was well constructed and of an advanced nature. The explosive was of good quality and certainly would have the potential to cause widespread damage in the vicinity it was placed. It was primed to go off and would have exploded if it had not been discovered.
There is no doubt that the quick action of our Volunteers avoided a situation which would have led to causalities and widespread destruction.
Whereas the obvious suspects for this type of attack are loyalist death squads, the fact that this bomb contained military explosives, the advanced nature of the technology involved, and the actual location of the bomb, means that covert British intelligence operatives cannot be ruled out.
Tom Hartley, Sinn Féin councillor for the area, said ``the discovery and defusing of this device has undoubtedly saved lives.
``It is significant that no one admitted responsibility for the planting of this device, yet local residents have reported that up to six RUC Land Rovers searched the vicinity hours after the incident.
The explosive substance used was of a military type. The assailant left the scene using a route which avoided detention from the widespread surveillance equipment employed in this area.
Sinn Féin is urging nationalists to be vigilant to this type of attack.''