Serving prison officer intended target of bombers in Lisburn

Police and ATO carry out an operation in the Lagmore area of west Belfast at the weekend. Picture by Kevin Scott, Presseye 
Police and ATO carry out an operation in the Lagmore area of west Belfast at the weekend. Picture by Kevin Scott, Presseye 

A SERVING prison officer is believed to have been the intended target of a device discovered in Lisburn at the weekend, thought by police to have fallen from under a car.

The viable device was discovered in Market Place, on Saturday afternoon, forcing businesses to be evacuated and streets to close as a controlled explosion was carried out.

A vehicle was later seized by detectives in the Lagmore area of Belfast.

Police believe the vehicle may have been used by dissident republicans involved in the planning of the attack and have removed it for forensic examination.

The group calling itself 'the IRA' are suspected of involvement but no claim of responsibility has so far been been made by any organisation.

Sources say a prison officer in the Lisburn area, was the intended target. 

Pictures of the device appear to indicate it only partially fell from the vehicle and the other components may still be attached to the officer's car.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he is aware of a number of prison officers who have been warned to step up their security in recent weeks.

"While we are unaware at this stage of the exact identity of the person targeted it appears to have been a member of the security services and most likely a prison officer. There are a significant number of prison staff living in the Lisburn area due to the close proximity to HMP Maghaberry and there remains an escalated level of threat to those staff from dissident republicans.

"The dissident groups who engage in this terrorism are determined to destroy the progress made in taking Northern Ireland away from the murder and violence of our dark past.

"They have no mandate for their actions. They must not and will not succeed", he added.

PSNI Superintendent Brian Kee said: "Our investigation into the circumstances surrounding this security alert is at a very early stage. We are following a number of lines of inquiry, one of these is that the device may have fallen from a vehicle.

"This completely reckless act not only endangered members of the public but also caused mass inconvenience and disruption.

"Those responsible for this device have shown total disregard for the safety of the community", he added.

Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann condemned the incident.

"The discovery of a bomb in Lisburn and a follow up search operation in the Lagmore area of west Belfast is very concerning and must be condemned," she said.

"Thankfully no one was injured in this incident.

"There can be no place for, and no justification for attacks like this in our society.

"This community is moving forward and does not want to be dragged back to the past with things like this."

Earlier this year the new IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing attack that lead to the death of prison officer Adrian Ismay

While the 52-year-old initially appeared to be recovering from leg injuries received when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast in March, he collapsed and died shortly after being released from hospital.

West Belfast man Christopher Robinson (45) from Twinbrook in west Belfast has been charged in connection with the murder and is currently on bail.

Following the murder of Mr Ismay NI Prison Service staff were warned to be more aware of their personal security. Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association said last night the threat level against prison staff "remains severe".