Police investigate car bomb attack

Police investigate car bomb attack

Police in the North will today carry out a painstaking investigation into a car bomb attack by dissident republicans.

Officers said it was a miracle no one was injured in the explosion outside Newry Courthouse in Co Down shortly after 10.30pm on Monday.

Investigators are examining the scene for evidence following the estimated 250lb bomb blast, and they warned that the area is likely to be sealed off for two days.

The entrance of the heavily fortified court complex was badly damaged in the explosion, which occurred within walking distance of restaurants and bars as police were still evacuating the area.

The attack came after dissidents were blamed for abandoning a mortar at a police station in nearby Keady, south Armagh.

But after some politicians raised concerns at the length of time of the resulting security operation in Keady, Chief Constable Matt Baggott warned that the investigation into the Newry bomb could not be rushed.

"It's important that we take as long as it takes to deal with this scene (in Newry) as a crime scene, do everything we can forensically to understand what's happened, to understand what we've got because that's essential to bringing these people to justice," he said.

"And the second thing is in relation to both (Keady and Newry) we ask some of our technical officers to do a job that quite frankly I would never want to do personally.

"We ask them to do a job responsibly to defuse and deal with devices that are put there to maim or kill.

"I have been a little disappointed by some of the comments, such as 'why couldn't you do it quicker?'.

"Well I will never, never ask anybody that's tasked on our behalf with defusing things to 'hurry it up', because quite frankly we owe it to these brave courageous people to give them as much time as they need to deal with these things on our behalf.

"I know there are concerns about times, frustration about people's disruption to their lives but I wouldn't expect, and I know people wouldn't expect me to say: 'please would you hurry this up' because that wouldn't be right."

The alarm was raised after the car carrying the bomb was abandoned after being reversed against the gates of the court.

Two coded bomb warnings were received at a local hospital and business, but residents near the scene claimed members of the public were walking past the area shortly before the explosion.

Last March, dissidents gunned down two soldiers, Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey, at Massereene army barracks in Antrim. Two days later they shot dead police constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, Co Armagh as he answered a call for help.

Meanwhile, in September police discovered a 600lb bomb in the south Armagh village of Forkhill.

Last month a Roman Catholic police officer was seriously injured in a car bomb attack in Co Antrim while a number of police stations were shot at several times in recent weeks.

Last night, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton added her voice to those condemning the bombers, insisting they would not destabilise the peace process.

"It was another cowardly act of violence by those who would prefer to plant bombs than to argue for votes and participate in the political process," she said.

"The parties in Northern Ireland have similarly condemned that action in the strongest terms and I urge that everyone continue to work towards seeing the devolution of authority and a better future for Northern Ireland."

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