Dissident IRA members forced an innocent driver to carry a loaded bomb in his car into the car park of a major Belfast shopping center on Sunday night.
The detonator on the 130-pound bomb, contained in a keg, exploded as bomb disposal experts approached in the car park of the Victoria Shopping Center, but it failed to trigger the main explosion which would have caused wide devastation and death said police.
The driver had been stopped at gunpoint in the nationalist Ardoyne area earlier by masked men in boiler suits who threatened him and told him to drive the car with the explosives to the center.
After parking he ran to the nearby police station to inform authorities.
Police disposal experts were approaching the car when the detonator went off
PSNI Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum stated: “It could have been catastrophic for Belfast and Northern Ireland.”
PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott stated “The philosophy of these groups is simply hatred.”
“There has been a surge recently in dissident republican activity.
“We have seen letter bombs, under-car booby traps, blast bombs, hijackings.
“These groupings are trying to bring themselves to notice again. They seem to be in some form of bizarre competition to make sure that they have a profile.”
Assistant chief constable Drew Harris said.“This was a terrifying experience for that poor driver because as he was going along obviously the device is situated right behind him and he is driving along with a live device which if it had detonated, even partially, would have caused him severe injury and even death,” he said.
“A full explosion would have killed him outright. It is a reckless thing to plant such a large device in the city center.
“We are viewing this as an effort to try and really disrupt the city center in the run-up to Christmas.
“It is many years since we have had such a direct attack in the city center of such scale, we are asking people to be vigilant. People will see an increased police presence in the city center.”