LONDON (AFP) – Northern Irish police said on Thursday they had found a bomb attached to a truck which was intended to go off as the United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU).
The Continuity IRA (Irish Republican Army), a dissident paramilitary group, were blamed for planting what detectives said was a viable device.
Dissident republicans like the Continuity IRA seek Northern Ireland’s integration into the Republic of Ireland through violent means.
Police said a sketchy warning call was made to a media outlet on January 31 – the day the UK left the EU – about a device on a truck in Belfast docks, due to take a ferry to mainland Britain.
Searches were conducted and nothing was found.
But on Monday, a more detailed warning call said the device had been attached to a truck trailer belonging to a particular haulage company.
It was found inland at an industrial estate in Lurgan, southwest of Belfast, and was made safe by British army bomb disposal experts.
Police believe the Continuity IRA thought the trailer was destined for a ferry to Scotland but had selected the wrong vehicle as the one containing the bomb did not leave the premises at all.
The bomb “could have caused death and very serious injury,” said the Northern Irish police’s temporary assistant chief constable George Clarke.
Those who created the bomb “did intend that the device would explode at around the time the UK left the EU”, he added.
The UK deems the Northern Ireland-related terror threat level to be severe – the second-highest of five levels – meaning an attack is considered “highly likely”.
The UK left the EU on January 31, with Northern Ireland a major sticking point in three years of Brexit withdrawal agreement negotiations between London and Brussels.