BELFAST, United Kingdom - A bomb exploded in Belfast in a different location to the one given in a telephone warning, in what Britain’s Northern Ireland minister called a “reckless attack”.
The call to a Belfast newsroom claimed the device had been left at a hotel, forcing the evacuation of the Northern Irish capital’s bustling Cathedral Quarter, packed with pre-Christmas revellers.
However, the device went off elsewhere in the district just before 7:00pm (1900 GMT) on Friday. There were no reports of any injuries.
It is not yet known if the bomb, which went off on a footpath by a busy restaurant, was a small device or a larger one that partially exploded.
Police warned last month of an upsurge in activity by dissident republican paramilitary groups who want the British province to be part of the Republic of Ireland.
Police Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said the bombing had the potential to kill or cause serious injury.
“This was an attack on the people of Belfast going about their normal lives,” he said.
“Those who carried out this attack have nothing to offer except disruption and destruction.” Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said it was a “reckless attack”. “On one of busiest nights of the year with people enjoying the festivities ahead of Christmas, as well as all those in the final stages of Christmas shopping, it shows that these terrorists are stooping to a new low.” The province’s justice minister David Ford said it was an attempt to “kill and injure innocent people”.
The blast comes after a large bomb placed in a hijacked car partially exploded in Belfast on November 24, also without causing any casualties.
More than 3,500 people died during three decades of violence between Catholic republicans and Protestant unionists who want to remain part of Britain.
The unrest was largely brought to an end by 1998 peace accords which created a power-sharing government between the two communities, although low-level violence continues.