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Man arrested under Terrorism Act following east Belfast explosion

Police forensics officers investigating the scene of a reported explosion in the Fraser Park area of east Belfast. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
Police forensics officers investigating the scene of a reported explosion in the Fraser Park area of east Belfast. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

A man was released by police last night after an explosion rocked a residential neighbourhood in east Belfast.

The device went off in a garden shed in the Fraser Pass area of the city shortly after 8pm on Friday night. No one was injured in the blast.

A 32-year-old man was subsequently arrested on suspicion of explosives offences, only to be re-arrested under the Terrorism Act a few hours later.

Police announced at 5pm yesterday that he had been released unconditionally. Bail is not permitted under the Terrorism Act and suspect must be charged, released pending report to the Public Prosecution Service or released unconditionally.

Several back windows of the property were blown out in the blast, while the garden shed in which the device is believed to have detonated was destroyed.

Windows in the house were damaged and a garden shed was destroyed in the blast. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
Windows in the house were damaged and a garden shed was destroyed in the blast. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

Throughout Saturday, police and forensic officers remained the scene to carry out their investigations.

The Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday that loyalist paramilitary groups, the UVF and UDA, denied involvement.

PSNI detective sergeant Ricky Thompson appealed for information.

"Detectives investigating the report of an explosion in the Fraser Pass area of east Belfast around 8.15pm last night, Friday 26 January have re-arrested a 32-year-old man, under the Terrorism Act. He is currently in custody, assisting us with our enquiries," he said.

"We are appealing to anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the Ballymacarrett area last night between 7pm and 8.30pm to get in touch with detectives on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 1302 of 26/1/18."

Less than one hour after the explosion, the PSNI’s Paramilitary Crime Taskforce raided a pub in east Belfast – just half a mile from the scene of the earlier blast.

A UVF mural just yards away from were Friday's explosion occurred. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
A UVF mural just yards away from were Friday's explosion occurred. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

Four police Land Rovers and several unmarked police cars swooped on the Cock & Hens Bar on the corner of Lord and Thorndyke Street around 8.40pm on Friday.

Officers were seen carrying bags of unidentified items from the premises before they left the area shortly after 9pm.

"A number of items were seized and taken away for further examination. There are no further details at this time," a police spokesperson said.

Two weeks ago, detective superintendent Bobby Singleton, who leads the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce, revealed the four main targets for the squad in their crackdown against organised crime in the north.

One of those targets was the UVF in east Belfast, a paramilitary faction who marked their turf just yards away from Friday’s explosion through a large UVF mural depicting masked gunmen.

Speaking to The Irish News, PUP councillor for the area, John Kyle, said explosions and bombs belong in the past.

The explosion happened at around 8.15pm on Friday night. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
The explosion happened at around 8.15pm on Friday night. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress

"People in East Belfast are adamant that they have had enough of this violence and criminality," he said.

"The police need to rigorously pursue the people behind this explosion and deal with them appropriately."

"All that people around here want is good housing, healthcare and job opportunities. They have no time for this kind of behaviour. Bombs, explosions and violence belong in the past."

Forensic investigators at the scene of Friday's explosion. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
Forensic investigators at the scene of Friday's explosion. Picture by Alan Lewis, Photopress
The Cock & Hens Bar in east Belfast was raided by officers from the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce less than an hour after the explosion in nearby Fraser's Pass
The Cock & Hens Bar in east Belfast was raided by officers from the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce less than an hour after the explosion in nearby Fraser's Pass