Belfast bomb 'clear attempt to murder police officers'

Superintendent Chris Noble said it was a "clear attempt to murder officers"

Police said a bomb in south Belfast had the potential to kill police officers and members of the public.

Army technical officers were called to Annadale Embankment at about 0130 BST on Tuesday and the police helicopter was also launched.

Officers were lured towards the device by a phone call claiming a woman was in distress in the area.

Superintendent Chris Noble said it was a "clear attempt to murder officers".

The device was attached to a stile at the top of a path leading to the Lagan River.

Police said a significant number of officers responded to a call apparently from a woman in distress in a wood.

They said the bomb was small but could have killed. Supt Noble described those responsible as "callous".

The acting chairman of the Policing Board Brian Rea met with the chief constable on Tuesday morning.

Mr Rea condemned the "utter depravity" of those who had left the device.

"I find that it is difficult to find words to describe the mentality and morals of those who are embarking on such operations," he said.

"There clearly are those who are intent, and bent on death and destruction."

Mr Rea said police officers were aware of the threat posed by dissident republicans.

"I think every police officer who goes out morning, noon or night, goes out into situations where they realise their lives are in danger, and they are taking extra measures to protect themselves and to protect their families, and most of all to protect the community," he said.

The cordoned was removed from the area at about 2030 BST on Tuesday, once the police had carried out extensive searches.

Analysis

Despite the public outcry that followed the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr, dissident republicans continue to target police officers.

Senior police sources say there is no evidence that the widespread cross-community condemnation of the murder has had any impact on those groups.

A police officer in Northern Ireland is warned he or she is being targeted every two weeks.

Police fear dissidents will attempt to increase their activity in the weeks leading up to the elections and the visit by the Queen to the Republic next month.

No homes were evacuated in the overnight security alert. The road closure from Mornington Place to Wellington Square remains in place.

Two weeks ago, Catholic police officer, Ronan Kerr, 25, was killed when a bomb exploded under his car in Omagh.

Dissidents republicans have been blamed for his murder.

Despite widespread condemnation of Mr Kerr's murder, the police have said they fear dissident republicans may have already identified their next target, and will continue their efforts to kill more officers.

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