Dissident republicans target soldier in car bomb in north Belfast

The soldier found the device while cleaning the car before going to pick up a child from school on Thursday

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A soldier who discovered a dissident republican bomb inside his car may face disciplinary action from the Army for ignoring personal security orders.

It is understood the device was planted when he left his car open outside his girlfriend's home in Blackdam Court in north Belfast's Ligoniel area.

The soldier found the device while cleaning the car before going to pick up a child from school on Thursday.

It is understood the device contained a trip wire attached to the seat belt.

The soldier is believed to have had some form of military insignia displayed in the car's rear window.

The soldier is from Scotland and is not based here, but was visiting his girlfriend and is believed to have been staying at the house, which is in a nationalist area, for a number of weeks.

PSNI Chief Inspector Andy Freeburn said if the bomb had gone off the soldier, and others in the vicinity, could have been killed.

"This has been a despicable incident," he said.

"The initial assessment we received from the Army Technical Officers was that, if it had detonated as intended, it would have killed the occupants in the vehicle. And anybody surrounding the vehicle could have been killed or seriously injured.

"We are talking about a time where, in a built up area, many children aren't back to school yet after the holidays and this could have been an absolutely horrendous start to the new year."

Analysis: Vincent Kearney, home affairs correspondent

My understanding is that this car had been used to transport people to a number of parties in the north Belfast area on Wednesday night and had been left open on a least two occasions.

When the bomb was planted the car was parked outside a long-term girlfriend's house in this area and I believe the car was probably at that stage open.

It's understood that this soldier may have told a number of people in the area that he was a serving soldier.

His car was parked and left open in a nationalist area of north Belfast.

If he did breach standing orders on security procedures he could indeed face disciplinary action from the Army.

He said the soldier was not based in Northern Ireland, but had been visiting. He pointed out that other people had also used the car, and said it may have been left unlocked overnight.

He appealed for anyone who saw the car on Wednesday night or Thursday morning to contact the police.

Parties

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds described the attack as an "appalling incident".

"It was designed and targeted to kill a particular target, and it's emerged now, a serving soldier. This bomb was placed in an area which could have caused a lot of damage to property and the lives of residents.

"The people who carried this out were clearly intent on murder and entirely reckless as to who else would die along with their intended target."

Mr Dodds said the vigilance of the soldier had been "one of the main factors" in saving his life.

Sinn Fein MLA for the area Gerry Kelly described the car as a "party car".

"My understanding is that there was a number of parties going on and the driver of this car hadn't been to sleep. I think the car had been left open on a number of occasions," he said.

Nigel Dodds, MP, condemned the attack Nigel Dodds, MP, condemned the attack

"We could be looking at a terrible tragedy. We could have been looking at not one death but a number of deaths this morning.

"It entirely endangered not just the soldier but the passengers who may have been in the car at different times during the night and also the community. That has to be condemned."

The security alert caused a lot of disruption for people living in the area.

About 60 residents were moved from their homes, but have since returned.

On Thursday night, one resident said: "We can't get into the house, the child should be in bed. But the worst devastation is that if someone got hurt. Complete inconsideration for the locals."

Another local said: "The thought of a bomb in the street. Just scary, with the kids would have been out playing, sometimes, at that time of the morning."

DUP MLA William Humphrey said: "This was a very reckless indiscriminate planting of what seems to be a viable device in a built-up area."

The device was dealt with in a controlled explosion.

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