BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND (BNO NEWS) — Two powerful car bombs have been defused in Northern Ireland, police said on Saturday afternoon, blaming dissident republican paramilitaries who remain violently opposed to a 1998 peace deal which ended most violence in the region.
District Commander Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson said the first explosive device was discovered on late Thursday afternoon in an abandoned vehicle on Fathom Line in Newry, not far from the border with the Republic of Ireland. The road was closed shortly after while residents were told to remain indoors.
“A security operation got underway and, as a result of this operation, Army Technical Officers (ATO) made safe a viable device contained in the back of the Citroen Berlingo van,” Robinson said during a press conference on Saturday. “The device contained two blue barrels with 125 kilograms (275 pounds) of homemade explosives in each one, and a detonator, all the equipment which meant this device was ready to go.”
Police called the car bomb in Newry a ‘very significant’ device, one of the largest car bombs found in Northern Ireland in recent years. “If this had exploded it would have caused devastation,” Robinson said. “To put it in perspective: anyone within 50 meters (165 feet) of this device would have been killed and anyone within 100 meters (328 feet), seriously injured.”
Just over 24 hours later, on late Friday evening, police evacuated up to 70 homes after a suspicious object was found under a parked car in a garage in north Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. The device was made safe several hours later, and officials said it would have been a ‘real tragedy’ if the bomb had exploded.
Meanwhile, also on Friday, police recovered a number of guns and ammunition during a security operation targeting dissident republican terrorists in north Belfast. Several houses in the area were briefly evacuated during the large-scale operation, which lasted several hours.
In August 1998, a total of 29 people were killed and more than 300 others were injured when a car bomb exploded in the town of Omagh in Northern Ireland. The attack, carried out by the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) which broke away from the mainstream Provisional IRA, was Northern Ireland’s worst terror attack in 30 years.
The peace deal in 1998 brought an end to more than three decades of violence between mainly nationalist Catholics opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland and pro-union Protestants who wanted it to continue. In April 2011, a booby-trap car bomb near Omagh killed Police Constable Ronan Kerr.