Border bomb warning
A large bomb left on the border last week appears to have signalled an escalation of the armed campaign by the breakaway IRA groups.
The bomb left in a van with its engine running was one of the largest such devices built in recent years. The PSNI said the device was of a “sophisticated” construction, containing up to 600 pounds of explosives and a detonator.
A series of other incidents have followed this week, sparking renewed concerns at Stormont and Westminster over a possible surge in armed actions.
The PSNI were alerted to the abandoned vehicle at Fathom Line south of Newry on Thursday -- but it was not until Friday evening that the device, contained in the back of a white Citroen van, was defused.
The PSNI said it had mounted a joint operation with Garda police across the border “within twelve minutes” to close off roads and search the area.
No organisation claimed responsibility for the incident. The device, which was not primed to explode, may have been abandoned short of its target, or intended as a ‘message’ to highlight the political stalemate in the North.
Local Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy said the bomb was “designed to keep the dissidents in the headlines”.
He said it was intended to do some “serious damage, either to property or to police personnel”, but there was no “rationale or sustained, logical campaign”.
Once again, despite PSNI claims that the road was closed, some motorists were allowed to drive past the vehicle. Cars continued to pass the van for several hours after the device was located in what is now a dangerously routine feature of bomb alerts in south Armagh.
The incident happened two weeks after the PSNI in Newry were accused of putting their own safety before that of the public when they took almost two hours to respond to a bomb alert near the Belfast to Dublin Road.
“There were no cones or officers stopping cars that I could see,” one local mansaid of the bomb incident.
“There was nothing to stop people driving past the bomb or warning of the dangers.”
Local Sinn Féin councillor Packie McDonald said the PSNI’s response “raised serious questions”.
A booby-trap bomb discovered under a car at a garage in north Belfast on Saturday has been linked to the breakaway group using the name Oglaigh na hEireann.
Up to 70 homes were evacuated on Saturday while British Army bomb experts made the bomb safe at the garage on the predominately loyalist Ballygomartin Road.
The bomb was believed to have been fitted with a mercury tilt switch device, a type of bomb previously associated with the dissident group.
It is understood the car had only recently been left at the garage as the owner was in the process of selling it.
Conflicting reports suggested the intended target was either a member of the PSNI or a drug-dealer from the north Belfast area.
Then on Tuesday a potential bomb was found hidden on a small island in a pond in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.
It has been linked to the dissident campaign by the Garda police, who were surprised to find it within a mile of Garda Headquarters. Containing 40 pounds of explosive, the device was ready for use and had been built into a metal milk churn.
Yet another bomb alert was underway today at the Belfast-Dublin railway line outside Lurgan in north County Armagh.
The alert was sparked after a phone call at 1.30am on Friday morning.
The train service in the area was disrupted. Local residents said they had seen an object burning on the railway line.
The area was evacuated before British Army bomb experts declared the incident to be a hoax.
The increase in IRA activity has not yet concerned British military experts, who have said that the current level of violence in the North is still “acceptable”.
“They will continue to have successes from time to time - some things will just get through at some point - but there is no sense of things getting worse,” one British official told journalists.