In Brief

Bomb at Belfast primary school 'planted by dissident republicans'

Explosive device was intended to murder police, senior officer says

A bomb left at the gates of a primary school in Belfast this weekend was planted by dissident republicans intent on murdering police, a senior officer has said.

The explosive device was found just before midnight on Saturday in an alleyway beside Holy Cross Boys' Primary in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast. About 20 homes in nearby Herbert Street had to be evacuated.

Several controlled explosions made the device safe, before it was removed for forensic examination.

Chief Superintendent Chris Noble of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "There's no doubt that device was there to try and kill community police officers on the beat in their local area."

He added: "It was left in such a reckless manner and in such a reckless location that it would have undoubtedly led to the death or serious injury of a member of the public had it exploded anywhere near them.

"It's a very significant device more than capable of causing death and serious injury."

Noble said targeting Holy Cross was "provocative" because the school's name is synonymous with the violent protests by loyalists targeting Catholic children as they walked to school in 2001 and 2002. Holy Cross is a Catholic enclave within a Protestant area, with schools serving both denominations.

As The Guardian reported at the time, the Catholic and Protestant schools in the area had a history of co-operation and children from both faiths found themselves running the gauntlet to get to school. The violence – which included balloons filled with urine thrown at schoolgirls and their parents – was condemned by Catholics and Protestants leaders alike.

The Belfast Telegraph quotes Noble as saying the bomb was "very much an 'anti-community act'" and showed the "contempt and disregard they hold this community in".

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he was "sickened" by the discovery. He said: "The consequences could have been utterly devastating and it shows (the terrorists) for what they really are. I am grateful to the emergency services for their work in keeping people safe."

Both Sinn Fein and the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) condemned the people responsible, with Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly saying: "Those behind it have no regard whatsoever for this community and they need to end these futile acts."

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