British troops on the ground in north Belfast
British troops on the ground in north Belfast

Heavily armed British soldiers were on patrol in Oldpark in north Belfast on Tuesday following a large explosion which destroyed perimeter fencing at the Oldpark PSNI barracks early on Tuesday morning.

A relatively large blast bomb was hurled at the base, which is now used mainly for surveillance purposes. While no PSNI members are based at the station, it is understood contract security guards were present at the time the attack took place at around 2am in the morning, but there were no injuries.

The following day, some 40 families were evacuated by the Crown forces as bomb disposal squads dealt with the scene.

The device used in the attack is reported to be similar to a bomb that was thrown into a British Territorial Army base in north Belfast in October.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds claimed the attack was evidence of a “ruthless and fanatical dissident element” operating in north Belfast.

“This police station is located in a residential area, surrounded by housing on all sides,” he said.

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly described the attack as “senseless”.

SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness accused dissidents of tryingto “exacerbate tensions” along interface communities.

“Unfortunately these dissident attacks are taking advantage ofthe political uncertainty that exists at the moment and this incident should spur politicians on to reach an agreement on the way forward,” he said.

Meanwhile, British MPs were told a “realignment” is taking place among republican armed groups.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson asked Direct Rule ‘Security’ Minister Paul Goggins: “Are you aware of a realignment that is taking place within these dissident republican groups?”

Mr Goggins said it had been ascertained that some tactical cooperation was taking between certain groups.

“That is something that the PSNI and the security services are aware of and are dealing with.

“The completion of a deal on policing and justice provides a real opportunity to snuff out those who would oppose the political and peace process.”

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