Police Says N. Ireland Bomb would Have Caused 'Devastation'


A large bomb discovered in a van in Northern Ireland was "ready to go" and would have caused devastation had it gone off, police said Saturday.

The 250-kilogramme (600-pound) explosive device would have killed anyone within 50 meter, Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson said after it was made safe by army bomb disposal experts.

The device was left outside the southeastern city of Newry on a country road which crosses the border with the Republic of Ireland.

Police first became aware on Thursday of the white Citroen Berlingo abandoned in a layby.

"The device contained two blue barrels with 125 kilograms of homemade explosives in each one, and a detonator -- all the equipment which meant this device was ready to go," Robinson told reporters.

"This was a very significant device.

"If this had exploded it would have caused devastation. To put it in perspective -- anyone within 50 meters of this device would have been killed and anyone within 100 meters, seriously injured.

"The van and bomb have now been taken for further forensic examination."

Detectives can only speculate at this stage about what the device was intended for.

"What there is no doubt about is that it was completely reckless to have this device anywhere near human life," Robinson said.

Asked about the risk to people who may have driven past the bomb-laden van, the officer said the road was closed within 12 minutes.

"Many police services would struggle to get an international border road closed in this time frame.

"That question is one that should be directed to the people who abandoned the device."

Dissident republicans opposed to the power-sharing peace process have been blamed for a number of bomb attacks around Newry in recent years.

The Catholic paramilitary groups want Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic but remain wedded to violent means.

Dissidents have been linked to the discovery of a smaller explosive device under a car, plus a cache of guns and ammunition, in north Belfast overnight.

"The finger of suspicion points towards dissident republican terrorists," Chief Inspector Ian Campbell said of the car device.

Sporadic unrest and bomb threats continue in Northern Ireland despite the 1998 peace accords that largely ended the Troubles, the three decades of sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics that left more than 3,000 dead.

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