‘Had van bomb exploded it would have caused devastation and claimed lives’ – Police
Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson was speaking after it emerged that the bomb found in a Citroen Berlingo van parked on the Fathom Line in Newry contained a staggering 600 pounds of explosives. Robinson said police responded immediately and had the road closed within 12 minutes of receiving the call from a vigilant member of public. The operation, he explained, involved cross-border cooperation between the PSNI and Gardai in the South.
Army Technical Officers joined in the operation and made safe what Robinson described as a ‘viable device’ in the back of the van. The device contained two blue barrels with 125kg of homemade explosives in each one, and a detonator – all the equipment which meant the device was ready to go.
Robinson continued, “This was a very significant device – twice the size of the bomb which was left at Newry Courthouse two years ago. If this had exploded it would have caused devastation. To put it in perspective – anyone within 50m of this device would have been killed and anyone within 100m, seriously injured. The van and bomb have now been taken for further forensic examination.”
Asked whether police knew who the device was meant for, Robinson hinted that his PSNI officers may have been the target. “We can only speculate at this time. Officers in the local area are out and about 24/7 and this wouldn’t be the first time that police actions have caused a device to be abandoned. What there is no doubt about is that it was completely reckless to have this device anywhere near human life.
Responding to criticism that cars were able to drive past the device, Robinson acknowledged people’s concerns but pointed out that a cross-border operation of this magnitude was carried out in a 12 minute period. He stated, “Many police services would struggle to get an international border road closed in this time frame. There was some residual traffic following the closures and, while we made the public aware of the road closures and advised them to avoid the area, a few cars ignored our advice. We do everything in our power to protect human life. That question is one that should be directed to the people who abandoned the device.”
Questioned about the very real threat from dissident republicans – who are believed to be involved in all three bomb and hoax bomb alerts in Newry over this past three weeks – Robinson added, “This is the third attack in the Newry area over the last few weeks however we have dealt with all three of these attacks. Officers are out in the community day and night, doing their utmost to ensure that the community is safe and we will continue to do this.”
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