Republican dissidents’ terrorising of Belfast continued today as they attempted to murder a police officer by planting a bomb under his car.
At least 70 people were evacuated from the Shandon Park Golf Club in the east of Northern Ireland’s capital as army bomb disposal squad swooped in to inspect the potential explosive.
It triggered a furious outburst from the head of the country’s terrorism unit who lashed out at the ‘violent’ extremists and said: ‘They don’t care who they attack, they don’t care who they kill. They are simply anti-peace and anti-democracy.’
The foiled killing comes only two weeks after journalist Lyra Mckee was shot dead in Derry by a gunman believed to be from the ‘New IRA’.
A tournament being held at the Shandon Park Golf Club was cancelled and at least 70 people evacuated
The golf course is close to the headquarters of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and a trawl of CCTV is underway to figure out how the suspect package was planted.
But Detective Superintendent Sean Wright, who leads Terrorism Investigation Unit, has pointed the finger at these republican extremists.
He said: ‘Our belief is that this attempted murder was carried out by violent dissident republicans.’
He added: ‘It is very fortunate that this device was detected before it exploded and that no-one was killed or seriously injured.
It was clearly intended to kill the police officer.
‘In placing such a device, terrorists have also put the officer’s family, neighbours and members of the public at serious risk.
The foiled killing comes only two weeks after journalist Lyra Mckee was shot dead in Derry by a gunman believed to be from the ‘New IRA’
‘Attacks on police officers are attacks on the entire community and they are an attack on our democracy.
‘Anyone who places an explosive device under a car in a built-up area cares little about our communities.
‘Their reckless violence cannot be allowed to continue.’
Club member Alan Paterson said an individual leaving the course noticed something under the car.
Someone immediately informed police and club members.
He added: ‘Within several minutes the police arrived and identified the object and said that they felt it was viable and that they should immediately evacuate the clubhouse and surrounding area, and also get everybody else off the golf course.
After deeming it a ‘viable’ device, the bomb disposal squad moved to evacuate at least 70 people from the grounds
‘It is very disappointing that things have been disrupted.
‘We are delighted that if it was a viable device the person concerned was not injured or worse, so that is a big plus for everybody.
‘We are a very mixed club. It is east Belfast, yes, but it is a mixed club and this sort of thing should not happen – it just should not happen.’
It is understood the car park area is covered by CCTV and footage will be scrutinised by detectives.
Police and Army bomb disposal experts attended the scene.
The car park was packed with the vehicles of golfers attending a vice-captain’s day tournament.
The device was spotted by someone leaving the club and police were alerted
A robot was used to investigate the suspect device.
Members had planned to watch Saturday evening’s Champions League football final at the clubhouse.
Mr Paterson added: ‘A disappointing day, it was nice to plan but it is not going to happen.’
Democratic Unionist Stormont Assembly member Joanne Bunting said it was a busy club with many golfers and social members on the premises, which is surrounded by residential communities.
‘It would be absolutely reckless for anyone to target such a busy area with an explosive device,’ she added.
‘Whether or not this is a viable device remains to be seen but either way we should recognise the alertness and swift response of all involved.
‘Nevertheless, it will have caused disruption, inconvenience and worry.’