Northern Ireland

Holy Cross Church: Pipe bomb 'intended to kill police officers'

Holy Cross alert
Image caption The scene of the alert outside Holy Cross church

Police have said a pipe bomb found outside the front gates of a Catholic church in north Belfast was intended to kill PSNI officers.

It was thrown at a police patrol on the Crumlin Road at 00:45 BST on Tuesday but did not explode.

When the device did not detonate, a call was made five minutes later to the parish priest at Holy Cross Church.

Eight nearby homes were evacuated while Army bomb experts made the device safe.

The Crumlin Road has now re-opened.

Ch Supt Nigel Grimshaw said it was a "large homemade bomb" that was about 2ft long and "made with a degree of sophistication that causes us great concern".

He said the device "bore the hallmarks of dissident republicans".

'Shameful attack'

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Media captionCh Supt Nigel Grimshaw said the device was a "large homemade bomb"

"The device, which has now been made safe, was described by ATO as both 'advanced' and 'sophisticated' and was clearly capable of killing the police officers in the vehicle had it exploded as those responsible intended," he said.

"This was a shameful attack on officers who each day go out to serve this community and keep people safe and must be outrightly condemned."

The senior officer said "such disruption to community life" was "totally unacceptable".

"People should not be subjected to such inconvenience and disturbance to their everyday lives, particularly where families with young children, the elderly and vulnerable are forced out into the cold in the early hours of the morning," he said.

"The alert also had a significant impact on traffic using the Crumlin Road for the morning commute and for parishioners attending morning Mass at Holy Cross."

Rector of the church Fr Gary Donegan also condemned the attack.

"I don't know what their motive is behind any of this kind of behaviour," Fr Donegan told the BBC.

Image copyright Ita dungan
Image caption The Crumlin Road was closed between Ardoyne roundabout and Cambrai Street

"At the moment, all they have managed to do is prevent, should there have been a sick call or an emergency, the priests from leaving the monastery here."

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, condemned those responsible for the device.

She said those behind the attack had no popular support and she would encourage anyone with any information to pass it to the police.