Police targeted in bomb attack (Belfast Telegraph)

The M5 motorway between Hazelbank and Greencastle was sealed off, officers said

Three police officers have escaped injury in a bomb attack in Northern Ireland.

Police confirmed that a report of a blast near officers on patrol in north Belfast on Saturday night was caused by an explosive device. They said they are treating it as a murder bid.

The incident happened around 9.15pm as officers responding to a call out in the Hazelbank area made their way along the Duncrue towpath near the M5 motorway. A blast went off close to the officers, prompting a security alert.

The area was sealed off for more than 24 hours as searches were carried out by police and Army bomb disposal experts.

A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) described the search operation as “lengthy and complex”. “Police can confirm that an explosive device detonated,” she said. “It is believed that the target was police officers and police are now treating it as attempted murder.”

While not injured, the spokeswoman said the officers were left badly shaken.

PSNI commander for the district Chief Superintendent Henry Irvine condemned those responsible. “This is a well known area that is used every day by members of the local community,” he said.

“It is only by good fortune that police officers and members of the public were not killed or seriously injured last night. Those who carried out this attack have shown complete disregard to the safety of the local community and the police officers serving this community.”

He appealed for anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity or vehicles in the area from Friday morning to 9pm on Saturday night to come forward.

The M5 motorway later reopened, however the towpath remained closed between the Dargan and Fortwilliam areas. The remains of the device have been removed from the scene for further forensic examination.

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