Bomb left at gates of primary school in Belfast in bid to 'murder police officers'

Jonathan Mitchell
A police cordon where the bomb was found in Belfast: PA

A bomb has been left at the gates of a primary school in Northern Ireland in an attempt to kill police, a senior officer has said.

The device was found in an alleyway by a passing patrol near Holy Cross Boys' Primary School in Ardoyne, North Belfast shortly before midnight on Saturday.

Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said the device was "sizeable" and was a clear attempt to kill police officers.

He added that there was “no doubt” that dissident republicans were behind the failed attack.

Twenty homes in a row of terraced houses in the Herbert Street area had to be evacuated while the bomb squad was called in.

They included families, pensioners and a six-year-old girl, who local representatives said was frightened and left in tears after being taken from her bed in the middle of the night.

Mr Noble said: "It's a very significant device more than capable of causing death and serious injury"

"There's no doubt that device was there to try and kill community police officers on the beat in their local area, but also it was left in such a reckless manner and in such a reckless location that it would have undoubtedly led to the death or serious injury of a member of the public had it exploded anywhere near them."

"All we need are the bits of the jigsaw to try and understand who was in the area, what people saw, because that's what detectives can then build their investigation on.”

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said those behind the attack wanted to murder or maim officers.

He said: "They didn't care if passers-by or children out playing in the area were caught up in an explosion. It was an entirely reckless act.

"This appears to have been a deadly, anti-personnel-type weapon. Thankfully, it was recovered and removed without being detonated.”

A number of controlled explosions were carried out at the scene and the device was taken away for forensic analysis.