Assembly to condemn bid to derail peace process

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The Independent Online

The Northern Ireland Assembly is today expected to condemn the latest attempts to derail the peace process after a car bomb attack and gun battle involving suspected dissident republicans.

The 400lb bomb partially exploded after a vehicle broke through a barrier outside the headquarters of the Northern Ireland Policing Board in Belfast.

Nobody was hurt but two men were seen escaping from the area at Clarendon Dock on Saturday night.

In a separate incident, five men were arrested after police exchanged fire with suspected dissident republicans close to the border with the Irish Republic in Co Fermanagh.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland detained four in the area and Irish police the other in Dooard, Co Leitrim.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said Saturday's attacks were designed to derail political progress.

"We have said from day one that the terrorist situation is severe. We have substantial resources being put into investigating and thwarting these attacks," he said.

"This attack is an attack on the well-being of everybody in Northern Ireland, this is not about an attack on policing or the Policing Board, this is an attack on young people and young people's future."

A car was found burned out nearby in the staunchly republican New Lodge area of the city and police are investigating whether there was any link with the earlier attack at around 7pm last night.

The chief constable said that in Fermanagh his officers fired two warning shots, which are being investigated by Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson. He said his officers had been fired at once during the exchange.

It is understood the attack in Garrison was an attempt to kill a police officer who lived in the village but it believed the officer was not at home.

The ages of the detained men are 22, 26, 32, and 41.

A suspect arrested by police in the Irish Republic is aged 27.

Earlier this month the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) reported that the dissident republican threat in Northern Ireland was at its highest level for almost six years.

The IMC said the two main dissident republican groups, the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, were working more closely together to increase the threat posed to security forces.

On March 7 the Real IRA killed sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, at Massereene Army base in Antrim.

Two days later the Continuity IRA shot PSNI Constable Stephen Paul Carroll in Craigavon, County Armagh.

In the period covered by the report, March 1 until August 31, there have been 11 attempts to kill other PSNI officers in Northern Ireland.

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph