Under-car bomb stark reminder of threat from dissident republicans

The van (centre, top) under which a device exploded in east Belfast, leaving a man injured
The van (centre, top) under which a device exploded in east Belfast, leaving a man injured

The under-car bomb blast that injured a prison officer in Northern Ireland is suspected to be the latest attack perpetrated by dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

While the actions of the violent extremists remain sporadic, the incident in east Belfast has provided another stark reminder of both their capacity and intent.

Since the Provisional IRA ceasefires of the 1990s, hard-liners have coalesced into various factions.

Only months after the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998 one of the radical groups - the Real IRA - killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, in a bomb in the Co Tyrone town of Omagh.

The structure and membership of the disparate gangs have remained fluid ever since, with crossover and co-operation commonplace.

In 2012 prison officer David Black was shot dead by dissidents on the M1 motorway in Co Armagh as he drove to work at Maghaberry high security jail.

In 2011, 25-year-old policeman Ronan Kerr was killed by an under-car booby trap bomb in Omagh.

Two years earlier, two British soldiers and a policeman were murdered in separate attacks within 48 hours of each other.

In March 2009, the Real IRA claimed responsibility for gunning down Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey outside Massereene Army barracks in Antrim.

Two days later the Continuity IRA said they shot dead Pc Stephen Carroll as he attended a 999 call in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

As well as security force attacks, dissidents have become embroiled in conflicts with drug dealers on both sides of the Irish border, with a number of murders linked to those feuds.