Belfast blast: Officers warned after bomb thrown police vehicle and separate under-car device found nearby

Paramedics treated up to four members of the public for shock

The Police Federation has warned officers to be vigilant after members of the force in Northern Ireland escaped injury during a blast bomb attack.

Chairman Terry Spence vowed dissident republicans opposed to the peace process would not succeed in plunging the country back into full-scale conflict after an explosive device was thrown at a vehicle patrol in West Belfast last night.

Extremists have redoubled efforts to kill, and officers were urged to tighten personal security after a separate under-car bomb was found a relatively short distance away earlier yesterday.

Members of a Filipino family were treated for shock and their car was damaged after a device was hurled at police near the City Cemetery off the Falls Road. Children aged 16, 13 and 11 were passengers caught up in the bombing.

Mr Spence said: "The officers were fortunate to escape unhurt in what was a clear attempt to murder and maim. Those responsible have absolutely no regard or respect for life.

"It was a reckless, cowardly and futile action by individuals who have nothing to offer."

The blast blew a chunk of masonry out of the wall of the cemetery.

Sinn Fein has also blamed and condemned dissident republicans.

Mr Spence added: "My members will continue undeterred to offer a professional service to the community. These terrorists will not succeed in their goal and I would appeal to anyone with information to get in touch with the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) so that these mindless people are brought to justice.

"Police officers and the public must remain vigilant as it is the obvious intention of desperate dissident republicans to attract a headline in the run-up to St Patrick's Day."

The Falls Road area was busy and 200 yards away more than 500 people were enjoying a night organised by the Feile (festival) community organisation.

Many people passed the site of the explosion, Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said. Police did not immediately attend to begin their investigation, a standard precaution against a follow up attack.

The earlier under-car bomb fell from the vehicle and failed to explode, and even though the target has not been positively identified, the PSNI has not ruled out the possibility it was meant for one of their officers.

The device was discovered at Blacks Road, a busy route close to the M1 not far from Woodbourne police station.

Dissident republicans have been blamed for planting the bomb in what appears to have been a deliberate attempt to embarrass Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who were in Washington to meet senior members of the Obama administration as part of St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Similar under-car bombs have been used several times before - once to kill Constable Ronan Kerr near Omagh, Co Tyrone, in April 2011, and to seriously injure two officers in separate attacks near Castlederg, Co Tyrone, in May 2008 and Randalstown, Co Antrim, in January 2010.

There have also been attempts to kill off-duty officers in Belfast, some of them close to PSNI headquarters, and a soldier in Bangor, Co Down.

Republicans opposed to the peace process also shot dead PSNI officer Stephen Carroll in March 2009, but after the murder of prison officer David Black on the M1 in November 2012, police mounted an unprecedented surveillance operation against various factions as well making significant arrests.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month