Bombs, riots mar N Ireland 2013 prospect

Northern Ireland has seen no relief from bombings after the New Year with six bombing incidents recorded only this month, including two bombs targeting police officers amid violent episodes of riots.

The police are now investigating a bombing near the house of an officer.

The device was found in the Coolnagard area of Omagh, County Tyrone, on Saturday when officers were investigating another incident on Friday night during which an off-duty police fired shots.

The discovery led to the evacuation of several homes in the area, while army bomb disposal experts dealt with the bomb.

The bombing follows the January 18 letter bomb sent to the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Chief Inspector Andy Lemon.

That device was luckily intercepted by postal workers at the town’s sorting office before the envelope addressed to Lemon found its target.

At the time the Chief Inspector described the incident as a “worrying development” for both himself and his officers and he appeared to have a point when the Omagh device was confirmed as viable on Saturday.

The first week in January ended with a potentially catastrophic bombing in Dundalk, County Louth, that saw army bomb disposal experts team tackles four viable devices planted in a derelict house in a residential area.

The Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) raised serious worries among residents in an area where several houses as well as a restaurant had to be evacuated to avoid fatalities in case the devices went off.

At a time of pro-British flag riots in Belfast over limiting the number of days the City Hall could fly the Union Jack, office of Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI), a community justice group established in collaboration with the British government in the city, was also targeted with a pipe bomb on January 9.

Bomb disposal experts had also to defuse another bomb in Belfast just two days later on Friday January 11.

That was followed with another bombing in the same area on Saturday, which closed down part of the southern Belfast railway line and led to the evacuation of a number of houses.

This comes as the incidents mentioned here do not include other security alerts and evacuations over devices later found to be hoax bombs.

Belfast’s almost two months of flag riots were billed as the most serious episode of violence since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and a threat to the peace accord.

The bombings and the riots are believed to paint a grim year ahead for Northern Ireland especially after Northern Irish police discovered high-powered “explosively formed penetrator devices” (EEPs) from dissident anti-British group IRA in four different occasions over the past months.