Senior officers were targets of ONH device
THE rebel IRA were trying to murder cops with a fireball bomb carried into Belfast city centre on Friday night. The sports bag bomb, packed with inflammable material according to police on Saturday, was abandoned short of its target, according to our sources.
Oglaigh na Heireann – ONH
Sources in Belfast’s Ardoyne, where the incendiary device originated, say the bomb, which partially exploded, was meant to mimic the IRA fire bomb attack on the La Mon House Hotel in February 1978 which murdered 12 people. The Sunday World learned on Saturday that a posse of top police officers – up to a dozen strong, were out for their Christmas ‘do’ just 100 metres from where the lethal firebomb in a Slazenger sports bag was left.
One source said: “They got an emergency call just minutes before a squad of police rushed in to evacuate the whole of the St Anne’s Square pub/restaurant area in the heart of Cathedral Quarter, packed with pre-Christmas party revellers. “They immediately left the premises. But they were the targets. The dissident bombers knew who they were, and where they were.” In fact, the explosive sports bag was abandoned just 100 metres from where the police officers were sitting down for a meal and a drink. On Saturday, the PSNI staged a hastily convened press conference where it was stated that the bomb which partially exploded could have killed anyone nearby. Dissident republican group, Oglaigh na hEireann, later said they were responsible. Police said the explosion at Exchange Street West at about a quarter to seven on Friday night could have caused multiple deaths. The bomb went off as the area was being cleared. No-one was injured in the attack. Police said the bomb was fully functional and consisted of explosives and flammable liquid. It was in a sports bag and was left on a street about 150 metres away from the spot identified in a warning call made to a newspaper office. That was also just round the corner from where the off-duty police officers were having their Christmas party.
Even when they evacuated the restaurant they were in, they would have walked straight into the abandoned bomb. About 1,000 people were affected by the alert in Cathedral Quarter, which is one of the main entertainment venues in Belfast. On Saturday First Minister Peter Robinson said this was an “attack on democracy”. “We are witnessing the work of a mindless minority who are intent on taking the heart out of the city and wreaking havoc on the lives and businesses of the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland,” he said. Deputy First Minister (J116) Martin McGuinness (The Fisherman) said the bombers showed “a complete disregard for life”. “Their actions have done nothing to move our society forward but, instead, have caused distress to local residents, disruption to Christmas revellers and loss of revenue for surrounding businesses,” he said. At Saturday’s Press conference at the PSNI’s Brooklyn HQ in Belfast, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway said: “This device was fully functional. It could have injured or killed members of the public and it has similarities to previous devices used by dissident republicans. “I would like to make a direct appeal to people who were in the area on Friday night and ask them did they see a male wearing a black hoidie carrying a black Slazenger bag in and around 6pm. “If they saw this person or anybody acting suspiciously I would appeal to them to come forward to detectives. “We are working very hard to keep Belfast safe and we will continue to do that but we need the community to be vigilant. We want them to go about their normal businness and support the premises in the town but be vigilant and if they see anything suspicious in the town don’t hesitate to lift the phone and tell us.” On Saturday and Saturday night it was ‘business as usual’ in Cathedral Quarter.
Dermot and Catherine Regan, owners of the Potted Hen restaurant close to the scene of the eexplosion said they were grateful for public support. “Thankfully no one was injured and there was no physical damage to the area. We are back to normal service from lunchtime on Sunday and will be contacting everyone who had booked for last night and whose evening entertainment was ruined,” they said. And Storming Shame Fein Sports and Culture Minister Caral Ni Chilin certainly voted with her feet. She visited the Cathedral Quarter in an unofficial capacity on Saturday evening, had a drink in a bar there, and when asked if she was giving a vote of confidence to the area after the Friday night bomb fright, said: “That’s why I’m here.”