Bomb defused in south Armagh

ARMY technical officers have made safe a 600lb bomb discovered near the south Armagh border.

The device was found on Tuesday following a week-long security alert which forced five families in the Forkhill area to leave their homes.

The bomb - which contained homemade explosives - has been blamed on dissident republicans.

Police have launched a major investigation after a command wire was found which led from the roadside where it was planted to a firing point across the border. The Irish Army and the Garda carried out a similar security operation in the Republic.

The remnants of the device have been taken away for forensic examination.

Newry and Mourne PSNI commander, Sam Cordner, condemned the actions of the perpetrators as "reckless and dangerous in the extreme".

"There could have been a devastating outcome to this incident," he said.

"The actions of terrorist criminals in planting this device in the Forkhill area put local people and police officers at significant risk.

"Their target may have been the police, but they did not care who they killed or injured. It is only through the hard work and professionalism of police officers and their military colleagues that the area has been made safe."

Mr Cordner thanked the people of Forkhill for their "patience and forbearance" as security forces worked to make the area safe.

Condemning the sinister find, UUP MLA Danny Kennedy described the threat from dissidents as "very real".

"If this had detonated we would have been looking at a serious loss life," he said.

"It is likely to assume that members of the PSNI were the target of this bomb; however had it detonated it could have killed any passer by. This shows how reckless these republicans were in their targets and highlights their total disregard for human life."

Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley expressed relief that no-one was maimed or injured.

"This is the most serious threat yet from dissident republicans to the people of South Armagh. Without doubt, there could have been civilian casualties and deaths caused by a bomb of this size," the SDLP man said.

The latest bomb scare follows the discovery of a device, also blamed on dissident elements, in Castlewellan in January. Its intended target was believed to be the Ballykinler Army barracks in Co Down.

A fertiliser bomb was uncovered in Rosslea, Co Fermanagh in May.