Belfast on alert as bomb found in store

Businesses in Belfast were put on high alert tonight after an incendiary bomb partially exploded in a city centre store.

The device, planted in the JJB sports shop in the main Royal Avenue shopping street, is thought to have failed to properly detonate some time during the early hours of the morning and was discovered by staff when they arrived for work today.

Army bomb disposal experts worked throughout the day before giving the all clear.

A second unexploded device was found later in the same store, prompting police to reinforce their warning to traders and other businesses to search their premises carefully.

Dissident republicans were believed to be behind the attack - the first on a city centre store for a considerable time.

Following the security alert the Police Service of Northern Ireland area commander, Chief Inspector Trevor O'Neill, hit out at those responsible, accusing them of having a callous disregard for human life.

Calling for caution among traders and other businesses, Mr O'Neill said: "We would urge all business owners to be vigilant and regularly check their premises on a daily basis, as a matter of good practice for any type of suspicious package or device."

He said: "Devices have the potential to destroy property, and take human life."

They could be left in garments, soft furnishings and upholstery - anywhere that could catch fire easily, he said.

Urging a return to the searches which used to be carried out in stores during and at the end of each day's trading, he said: "Vigilance is the key. Look out for anything suspicious."

Mr O'Neill said: "The callous disregard for human life shown by those who planted this device, which would appear to have partially exploded in a large retail outlet during the early hours of this morning, is almost impossible to comprehend.

"This is one of the busiest stores in one of the busiest streets in Belfast and it does not bear thinking about what might have happened if the device had detonated fully and when the store was full of shoppers."

The people responsible for the device had nothing to offer and no regard for the wishes of people to live in a changing and peaceful society, he said.

"This alert caused a great deal of disruption to everyday lives and I believe no one wants a repeat of these incidents.

"Whoever is behind them is certainly not speaking for the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland."

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