Dissident bomb 'detonated by mobile phone'

Chris Page reports for BBC Newsline

The bomb meant to kill or injure police officers on the outskirts of Belfast on Saturday may have been detonated by mobile telephone.

Officers were responding to a call on Duncrue pathway near the M5 motorway when the bomb partially exploded.

The BBC understands police are working on the basis that dissident Republicans were responsible for the attack.

This is believed to be the first time they have successfully used a mobile to detonate a device of this nature.

Analysis

While the PSNI will be relieved that three officers escaped serious injury or death, they will be deeply concerned about the level of sophistication of this device.

It is understood a mobile phone was used to detonate the device, which only partially exploded.

The police will not reveal precise details of the bomb, but it is believed to have been an anti-personnel device, which was probably packed with shrapnel, designed to cause as much damage as possible to anyone within its range.

This is not the first time dissident republicans have attempted to use a mobile phone as the trigger for a bomb, but it believed to be the first time they have employed this detonation method on this kind of device.

The police will be concerned because electronic detonation gives much greater operational flexibility to those who plant the bomb than the more traditional command wire.

In the past dissidents have made other attempts to detonate bombs by mobile phone.

'Fatalities'

Detective Chief Inspector Karen Baxter said the bomb was left in a place where officers or the public could have been killed.

"Had this device exploded as intended we would've had fatalities this morning," she said.

"There was a significant degree of planning involved and this was a sophisticated device. The people that left this have been reckless with their intentions," she said.

"They don't care who they kill - but the target was very clearly officers."

There had been two previous call-outs to police on Saturday alleging a crime had been committed in the area.

The area was sealed off for more than 24 hours as searches were carried out by police and bomb disposal experts.

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