Republican attacks to mark Easter Rising centenary 'highly likely' in Northern Ireland, say police

A bomb attack on a prison officer's van took place this morning in Belfast

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have warned they are "very worried" that a terror attack in the region is "highly likely" in the run up to the centenary of the Easter Rising.

A bomb exploded this morning underneath a van being driven by a prison officer in Belfast. The 52-year-old man has been taken to hospital for treatment. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening. 

Speaking this afternoon, PSNI Superintendent Darrin Jones said: "This could have been a fatal attack and we condemn it in the utmost circumstances... The people who did this set out to kill. Thankfully, on this occasion, they weren't successful but they may be successful the next time. 

"There is a severe threat in Northern Ireland, that means an attack is highly likely, at this time we are very worried about the threat picture. We believe that in the run up to Easter, there are people in dissident Republcian groupings who want to try and kill police officers, prison officers or soldiers."

This Easter is the one hundredth anniversary of the Easter Rising-when Irish Republicans enacted an armed rebellion against British rule. It is considered to have been one of the most significant events historically in the establishing of an independent Irish Republic.

A number of events are taking place in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in order to mark the occasion. However, the date remains deeply contentious in Northern Ireland.

Mr Jones said that the PSNI believes attacks may be committed as an attempt to mark the date. He said: "There are those within the Dissident Republican community who want to mark the centenary in an entirely more sinister way by killing police officers, by killing soldiers or by kiling prison officers" and that "in the coming weeks we will see an increased security presence in Northern Ireland."