Two bombs planted by militant Irish nationalists, including one packed with enough explosives to have killed anyone within a 50m radius, were defused in Northern Ireland on Saturday, police said.
The 270kg bomb, roughly the same size as one used to kill 29 people in the town of Omagh in the single deadliest attack of Northern Ireland’s three decades of violence in 1998, was left in an abandoned vehicle in Newry.
Police blamed nationalist groups opposed to a 1998 peace deal that largely ended violence in the British-controlled province, and said the device was fully primed to cause devastation.
“To put it in perspective — anyone within 50m of this device would have been killed and anyone within 100m, seriously injured,” District Commander Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson told a news conference. “This was a very significant device. If this had exploded it would have caused devastation.”
Army bomb disposal experts defused a similarly sized bomb in the border town of Newry this time last year. Another bomb was also found near the main Dublin-to-Belfast motorway earlier this month that police said had the potential to kill.
The other bomb also made safe by the army on Saturday was discovered under a parked car in Belfast, where 80 people were moved from their homes for five hours overnight. There was no confirmation yet of its size.
Police investigating dissident activity also found guns and ammunition in the mainly Catholic Ardoyne area of Belfast.
The 1998 peace agreement called a halt to more than three decades of violence between mainly Catholic Irish nationalists opposed to British rule of Northern Ireland and predominantly Protestant unionists who wanted it to continue.