A bomb found near a police station in northern Belfast was apparently intended to target police officers, Northern Irish police said on Wednesday.
Police said they had sealed off an area near a video-rental shop where the bomb was planted after dissident nationalist group Oglaigh na hEireann called a newspaper on Tuesday warning about an abandoned “unstable device”.
Hundreds of residents were evacuated and businesses were forced to close as bomb-disposal units worked to defuse the device on one of the province capital’s busiest thoroughfares.
Attacks, often aimed at army and police, have increased since nationalist splinter groups seeking a united Ireland killed two soldiers almost two years ago at an army barracks near Belfast and killed a police officer a day later.
An army disposal team defused a bomb planted at an army training centre in a Belfast university last week.
“The police have said that the intended target for this device was police officers,” Brian Rea, the acting chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said.
Speaking to reporters near where the bomb was found, Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton said on Wednesday: “I can confirm there is an anti-personnel bomb ... which was a viable device and which was designed to kill people in the area.”
Security forces blamed the incident on national militants opposed to Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal that largely ended the violence between the predominantly Catholic nationalists and mainly Protestant unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.