Police officers in the North have been urged to tighten personal security measures after an under-car bomb was found in west Belfast today.
It fell from a vehicle and failed to explode, and even though the target has not been positively identified, the PSNI has not ruled out the distinct possibility it was meant for one of their officers.
The device was discovered at Blacks Road, a busy route, close to the M1 motorway and not far from Woodbourne police station.
Dissident republicans have been blamed for planting the bomb in what appears to have been a deliberate attempt to embarrass the Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who are in Washington to meet senior members of the Obama administration as part of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Similar type under-car bombs have been used several times before – once to kill Constable Ronan Kerr near Omagh, Co Tyrone in April 2011 and seriously injure two officers in separate attacks near Castlederg, Co Tyrone in May 2008 and Randalstown, Co Antrim in January 2010.
There have also been attempts to kill off duty officers in Belfast, some of them close to PSNI headquarters, and a solider in Bangor, Co Down.
Republicans opposed to the peace process also shot dead PSNI police officer Stephen Carroll in March 2009, but in the aftermath of the murder of a prison officer when David Black was ambushed on the MI while on his way to work at Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim in November 2012, police mounted an unprecedented surveillance operation against the various factions as well making significant arrests.
But today’s failed attack confirmed fears of a continuing threat.
Terry Spence, chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Federation said: “The threat level is severe as dissident republicans continue with their aimless and murderous campaign.
“They wanted to murder an individual and plunge a family into mourning, and for what purpose? Whilst there is no evidence at this point to suggest that the target of this bomb attack was a police officer or member of a police officer’s family this cannot be ruled out and will be the subject of rigorous investigation.”
“I renew my appeal to police officers and the public to maintain vigilance and remain on high alert. The people who plan these acts have nothing to offer society and should be shunned. They have a hatred and blood-lust that the wider community abhors.”