PSNI escape injury after bomb planted in cemetery


Police in Belfast have escaped serious injury after an explosive device was planted in a west Belfast cemetery.

The attack happened on Friday night near the City Cemetery, a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said.

An ambulance service spokesman said paramedics treated up to four members of the public for shock but there were no serious injuries.

A PSNI spokesman said: “Police in west Belfast have escaped serious injury tonight after an explosive device detonated close to their vehicle on the Falls Road.

“The incident occurred shortly before 10.30pm close to the entrance of the City Cemetery.”

Initially PSNI believed the explosive device was thrown at their vehicle.

It later emerged it was planted and detonated by a command wire.

SDLP councillor Claire Hanna tweeted: “Hoping no serious injuries following explosion. Throwback (to) terrorists reduced to trying to embarrass Northern Ireland over St Patrick’s. Get off our backs.”

The City Cemetery, at the junction of Falls Road and Whiterock Road, is one of the oldest public cemeteries in Belfast.

Police officers in Northern Ireland have been urged to tighten personal security measures after a separate under-car bomb was found a relatively short distance away from City Cemetery earlier yesterday.

It fell from the vehicle and failed to explode, and even though the target has not been positively identified, the PSNI has not ruled out the possibility it was meant for one of their officers.

The device was discovered at Blacks Road, a busy route close to the M1 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 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 St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Similar under-car bombs have been used several times before - once to kill Constable Ronan Kerr near Omagh, Co Tyrone, in April 2011, and to 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 officer Stephen Carroll in March 2009, but after the murder of prison officer David Black on the M1 in November 2012, police mounted an unprecedented surveillance operation against various factions as well making significant arrests.

A family passing in a car was caught up in the blast as the vehicle was hit by shrapnel.

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said the attackers had no consideration for who they injured and the group had a lucky escape.

He said: “A passing PSNI vehicle appears to have been the target in this reckless attack when a family were fortunate to escape injury as their car was peppered with shrapnel. Thankfully no one was seriously hurt but the family are extremely shook up.

“At this early stage we have been told that no PSNI personnel were injured and their vehicle drove on. This was a busy normal Friday night on the Falls Road with hundreds of teenagers and young people out enjoying their evening.

“Those behind this attack clearly did not care who was injured or killed.”

The blast tore a chunk out of the cemetery wall.

Two hundred yards away more than 500 people were enjoying a night organised by the Feile (festival) community organisation.

Mr Maskey said those with no vision for the future had tried to bring death and destruction to the people of west Belfast.

“It is well past the time that this tiny minority wised up and got the message that the people have moved on and want left in peace.

“Unfortunately nearly two hours after the attack the PSNI have still not arrived at the scene as countless people and vehicles pass the site of the explosion. This is not acceptable.”

Stewart Dickson, justice spokesman at the Stormont devolved assembly for the non-sectarian Alliance Party, said those responsible wanted to return violence to the streets.

“These people have no regards for the consequences of their actions. They do not care if police officers or members of the public are killed.

“There can be no justification for this attack. The vast majority of the public fully support the police and are opposed to the actions of those behind this attack.”