Northern Ireland news

Cross-border probe after dissident republican attempt to kill police officer in east Belfast golf club

Shandon Golf Club yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus

A CROSS-BORDER probe is underway after a dissident republican attempt to kill a police officer.

The PSNI said a "sophisticated" bomb was found under the man's vehicle in a golf club in east Belfast and the main line of inquiry was the involvement of "violent dissident republicans".

In an update on the investigation yesterday, detectives said they want to trace a Dublin-registered green Skoda Octavia and are working with gardaí to find the vehicle.

The device was discovered under the man's car at Shandon Park Golf Club on Saturday.

The serving officer was said to have been left badly shaken.

PSNI Det Supt Sean Wright and Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke gave an update on the probe yesterday. Picture by Ann McManus

A vice-captain's day tournament was being held at the club, which is located close to the PSNI headquarters, when the device was spotted on Saturday afternoon.

An estimated 70 people were on the course at the time and another 50 in the clubhouse.

A police cordon remained at the golf club yesterday as officers carried out further investigations.

Assistant chief constable George Clarke said: "We are extraordinarily fortunate that we are not talking about the murder of a police officer, of members of his family or members of the public passing a bomb that has been planted recklessly, cruelly and viciously under his motor car.

"The attempt to murder a police officer is an attempt to murder a public servant.

"I cannot understand what cause is advanced by attempting to murder a man who day in, day out seeks to serve his community."

Detective Superintendent Sean Wright said the investigation was at an early stage, but the probe centres on two cars, a Green Skoda Octavia with the Dublin registration 01 D 78089 and a Silver Saab with the number plate NFZ 3216.

Police and army bomb disposal experts pictured dealing with the object believed to have been attached underneath a car that had been driven into Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast

He appealed for dashcam footage or any other information about the vehicles which may have been seen in the area between 10pm on Friday and 7.30am on Saturday.

Booby-trap car bombs were used to kill young PSNI constable, Ronan Kerr in Co Tyrone in April 2011 and inflict serious injuries on Constable Peadar Heffron the previous year.

In March 2016 prison officer Adrian Ismay also died after a bomb exploded under his van at Hillsborough Drive in east Belfast.

The foiled murder bid on Saturday comes less than two months after journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead in Derry by a gunman believed to be from the 'New IRA'.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the NI Police Federation, said: "We condemn this attack to murder a police officer. Someone whose sole role is to serve the community.

"Our thoughts are very much with this officer and his family in what are very traumatic circumstances, and would once again call on all sections of our community to isolate these terrorists who still have nothing to offer."

Alliance leader Naomi Long described the attempted murder bid as "utterly despicable and reckless".

DUP assembly member Joanne Bunting said it was "absolutely reckless for anyone to target such a busy area with an explosive device".

UUP MLA Andy Allen said those responsible are "hell-bent on dragging Northern Ireland back to the bad days of the past will not be allowed to succeed".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also said there was "absolutely nothing patriotic about planting bombs under Irish police officers' cars".

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