Proxy bombs like Sunday night’s attempted attack in Belfast city centre hark back to the very worst days of the Troubles, it has been claimed.
It comes after a number of such incidents in the last week, where innocent civilians have been ordered to ferry bombs towards their intended targets.
Sunday’s incident in Belfast saw a 130lb bomb partially explode in a shopping district close to the courts and Musgrave Street PSNI station, and police have described it as an attempt to disrupt the city in the run-up to Christmas.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: “There has been a surge recently in dissident republican activity.
“We have seen letter bombs, under-car booby traps, blast bombs, hijackings. These groupings are trying to bring themselves to notice again. They seem to be in some form of bizarre competition to make sure that they have a profile.”
Mr Baggott said there would be an increased police presence on the streets in order to reassure the public, and that he was looking at the possibility of bringing in “other specialist support” if needed.
He added: “The philosophy of these groups is simply hatred. They won’t be allowed to take us back.”
The bomb itself was in a beer keg in the back of a silver Renault car which police said was hijacked by three masked men in boiler suits in the Jamaica Street area of Ardoyne.
Meanwhile, the tactic of forcing innocent people to transport bombs has been called an act of “sadism” by one trade union chief, while the chair of the Policing Board, Anne Connolly, condemned those responsible.
Ms Connolly said: “The use of the proxy bomb tactic in recent days is concerning and further evidences the complete lack of care these people have for those who might get caught up in an attack.”