Fears of fresh bomb attack on Northern Ireland's Policing Board HQ

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The Independent Online

Dissident republicans who tried to blow up Northern Ireland's Policing Board HQ in Belfast are likely to target the building again, a senior officer warned yesterday.

Intelligence suggests that another attack on the Policing Board in Belfast is a "strong possibility", Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable Drew Harris revealed.

While the main threat is to the building, Mr Harris told members and staff of the independent body that they were at "moderate" risk.

Last month terrorists drove a car carrying 200kg (440lb) of home-made explosive through an entry barrier and abandoned it outside the towerblock in the Clarendon dock area. However, the device failed to detonate and no one was injured.

Security was tight at the building today as senior officers briefed members at the first meeting since the bomb plot.

As guards manned newly-erected steel barriers outside, Mr Harris indicated that the terrorists would try to strike again.

"Obviously following the events of Saturday evening 21st of November when a vehicle borne improvised explosive device was left at this building - it was a device consisting of 200kg of home made explosives that failed to fully detonate," he said.

"Subsequent to that, staff or members of the Policing Board are assessed to be at moderate threat but this building itself is defined as being at substantial threat, which is an attack is a strong possibility.

"That's the current situation at this time."

The Policing Board was set up as part of peace process reforms designed to make the police more accountable.

The failed attack at its HQ was blamed on republican extremists who continue to target the agencies of law and order in a bid to destabilise the political process.

The board is made up of independent and political members who scrutinise the PSNI's performance.

In the wake of Mr Harris's report, Democratic Unionist member Ian Paisley Jnr praised the board staff for the work they continued to do in the face of the threat.

"Could I pay tribute to our staff? Our staff don't deserve to be targeted, our staff do an excellent job for the public," he said.

"And for them to be subject to an attempt to destroy their place of work and indeed destroy them I think is completely reprehensible and needs to receive the firmest possible condemnation."

The North Antrim representative also commended the independent board members for their fortitude.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said it was ironic that terrorists would attack what was a symbol of police reform.

"It is very ironic indeed that the building that is precisely here to house very important accountability mechanisms was targeted," said the South Belfast Assembly member.

"And I do want to make sure that the members of staff here who do provide invaluable work and support in this regard are recognised for the very professional standards for the work they do uphold."

The attempted bombing happened within hours of a murder bid on a trainee police officer in the Co Fermanagh border village of Garrison. An undercover police unit thwarted that attack and two people have since been arrested and charged.

At yesterday's meeting, Mr Harris was accompanied by members of the PSNI's senior command team, including Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

Mr Baggott told the board that his officers would not let the violent renegades prevent them from providing a professional service to the public.

"We have a difficult time in dealing with the security situation. We have never said that it's not severe but I know that I have the most incredibly professional colleagues working on that - Garrison showed that in a very clear way," he said.

"We are determined that we won't allow a minority of people to undermine our accountability to you (the board)."

The chief added: "I know we are motivated by a desire to serve everybody and we won't let a number of people who are going in a completely opposite direction stop us from doing that."

Source: The Belfast Telegraph