City centre may have been target for bomb (NewsLetter)

The 600lb bomb found outside Newry last week was probably destined for the city itself, a Stormont minister has claimed.
Danny Kennedy was speaking after security forces ran an operation over Thursday night and Friday to make safe a device which was twice as large as the one which damaged Newry courthouse in 2010.
The fully-primed bomb was left in a white Citroen Berlingo van, which had been left with its engine running on the Fathom Line near the border. Police said that anyone within 50 metres of it could have been killed.
Mr Kennedy, the Regional Development Minister and a UUP MLA for the area, told the News Letter yesterday: “Police seem to be indicating that they were expecting this bomb to be brought somewhere. There was a significant police presence in Newry in the run-up to this find and there is the question of whether intelligence led them to it.
“There are questions about whether it was destined for the centre of Newry, Ardmore PSNI Station or Newry courthouse – these are targets that are all being looked at [as possibilities].”
Asked if he thought that the bombers had taken cold feet and dumped the bomb because of the increased security presence in Newry, the MLA said: “That seems to be the emerging picture.”
The PSNI responded to Mr Kennedy’s comments by saying it was “too early in the investigation to say where the device was intended for”, adding that they “cannot speculate at this time”.
Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Finlay said yesterday that the bomb was “a sophisticated device”. He told the BBC: “A lot of thought had been put into its construction. Clearly it had been worked at for some time by people with murderous intent.”
It is understood the design of the bomb was of the type typically used to strike major targets.
Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy told the BBC yesterday there was a “sense of relief” that it did not detonate but that there is also “a sense of anger and outrage that these attacks continue”.
Pastor Barrie Halliday, from Bessbrook, claimed young people are “flocking” to dissidents in Newry.
“Ordinary nationalists are scared about how full of bitterness they are,” he said. “Former IRA members are also involved.”
One source close to the intelligence community told the News Letter that the fact that so much material was invested in one device suggests dissidents have “a growing confidence” in the availability of their resources.
“There is a pattern to this in that large bombs are emanating from the north Louth/south Armagh area,” they said.
TUV leader Jim Allister hailed the work of the Army technical officers who defused the bomb, saying they prevented a potential episode of “mass murder and catastrophic damage”.
SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley also condemned the bombers, saying: “After enduring 30-plus years of violence, the public, including the people of Newry and Armagh, are repulsed by the thought of violence being used here again.”


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