Bomb attack on MI5 HQ

A major bomb detonated earlier this morning outside the British Army’s Palace Barracks in Holywood in County Down, east of Belfast.

The attack took place at 24 minutes past midnight at the rear of the base, according to the PSNI police, who also said there were only minor casualties at the base.

Initial reports suggested the blast was heard up to forty miles away, indicating that the device may be one of largest yet deployed by the breakaway IRA groups. It is understood that a vehicle of some kind was used in the attack.

The blast comes after statements issued at Easter in the name of Oglaigh na hEireann (IRA) vowed an escalated armed campaign against British rule. A major car bomb struck Newry courthouse last month.

The Palace Barracks became controversial in recent years due to the development at the base of the large new headquarters of British military intelligence (MI5).

Later today, the MI5 headquarters is set to take control of British state security functions in the North, including the operations of the PSNI (formerly RUC) Special Branch. The transition is due to follow the devolution (transfer) of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast at the Stormont Assembly.

The base is also the permanent home in the north of Ireland of the Paratroop Regiment, responsible for Bloody Sunday massacre. It was used as a torture centre following the introduction of internment in August 1971. A number of prominent republicans, including Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, were subjected to beatings and psychological torture at the barracks.

A further report will be carried in our full edition later today.

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