Belfast bomb in Cathedral Quarter 'could have killed or injured anyone near'

Bomb exploded in a busy area of Belfast City

A bomb that exploded outside a busy restaurant in Belfast city centre following a misleading telephone warning could have killed or seriously injured anyone near it, a police commander has said.

Approximately 1,000 people were being evacuated by police from bars, eateries, residential accommodation, a theatre and a hotel in the bustling Cathedral Quarter district when the device detonated at Exchange Street West just at 6.45pm yesterday evening. No-one was hurt by the blast. 

Officers had been responding to a warning phoned through to a Belfast newsroom that a bomb had been placed in the area.

However, police said the caller wrongly claimed the device had been left at a hotel, when it was actually placed on the pavement beside a restaurant.

While police described the explosion as "small" they said the device could have caused potentially fatal injuries.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum described the actions of the perpetrators as "totally reckless" and said those who carried out the attack "have nothing to offer except disruption and destruction".

"This was an attack on the people of Belfast going about their normal lives on a busy night for socialising in the city," he said.

"Police would appeal for continued community support and vigilance on the run up to Christmas in seeking to disrupt or deter any further attack on the city."

Stormont's Justice Minister David Ford said the attack was an attempt to kill innocents while Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers branded it "deplorable".

Security has been ramped up in the city since a man was forced by masked dissidents to drive a car bomb to a shopping centre that faces a police station last month. That 60kg (132lb) device only partially exploded and no-one was injured.

"Yet again we see a reckless attempt to kill and injure innocent people in Belfast," Mr Ford said.

"The people carrying out these attacks have set out no reason and explained no cause for their acts of senseless violence. Their only aim seems to be to injure and disrupt. They ignore the strength of public support for normality and peace, especially at this Christmas season."

Ms Villiers said: "This was a reckless attack aimed at a busy entertainment area of the city.

"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.

"This small minority want to drain the economic life from Belfast - but we will not let them succeed."

Police have urged the public, particularly business owners, to be on the look out for suspicious objects.

It is not known who carried out the attack, although some are blaming dissidents

While the threat posed by the violent extremists has remained classed as severe, police have acknowledged a "surge" in activity has taken place in recent weeks.

The area targeted last night is named after the landmark St Anne's Church of Ireland cathedral.

In a joint statement, senior church figures the Dean of Belfast Reverend John Mann and the Bishop of Connor Alan Abernethy said they were "profoundly saddened" at the attempt to "disrupt and endanger the people of Belfast".

Unionist and nationalist politicians heavily condemned the attack, as did representatives from the hospitality and business community.

The Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, the Cathedral Quarter Trust and Pubs of Ulster were among organisations to speak out against the bombers.

Additional reporting by Press Association

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star