A viable mortar rocket was discovered by police at the rear of an elderly and infirm woman’s home in north Belfast. Dissident Republicans are thought to be behind the explosive, which could have been used to target a vehicle.

On Thursday more than 30 homes were evacuated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as they made safe the explosive on Jamaica Street, in the Ardoyne area of Belfast. This largely Republican area is known for its dissident presence. The security authorities are on high alert as the groups have threatened to kill police officers in recent years.

PSNI Chief Inspector Andrew Freeburn said “The community in north Belfast is extremely angry this morning. I am very angry that someone would put the lives of their community at risk in this way and I would ask people to transfer their anger into action.”

Freeburn also appealed for the public’s help in finding who was responsible for the explosive. He continued “This device, if it had detonated, had the ability to murder not only its target but those in the immediate vicinity so it is a very worrying development.”

He added “There is nothing to suggest that this was anything other than dissidents.”

A PSNI spokesman told the Irish Independent:"This is not the first time such a device has been recovered by police in Northern Ireland but it is a worrying indication of the capability and intent of those individuals or groups who seek to bring death and injury back to our streets, our homes and our communities."

Detectives said the missile found at the back of the elderly woman’s property was a horizontal-style mortar which could have been directed at a specific target.

Freeburn believes the mortar could have been used to kill police officers. He also said the terrorists used the elderly woman’s infirmity to their advantage.

“People have perhaps used the infirmity of this woman to actually store this murderous device in the rear of the property,” he said.

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