Belfast police move 50 families after bomb threat

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Northern Ireland police said Wednesday they had evacuated nearly 50 families in Belfast overnight in a major security alert sparked by the discovery of a suspected bomb.

Police said they had received a call suggesting that a device found on the Antrim Road on Tuesday was an "unstable" bomb, and said dissident republicans opposed to the peace process were likely responsible.

Army explosives officers carried out at least two controlled explosions on a vehicle overnight, a police spokeswoman said, while a second suspicious object was being examined Wednesday.

Chief Superintendent Mark Hamilton said: "We've received a number of calls over a 24-hour period and the last one in particular led us to believe we were looking for an unexploded bomb in an unstable condition."

He said about 40 to 50 families living nearby had been evacuated, adding: "There is no way I'm going to open the road again until I'm sure there is no risk of death or injury to anybody living or working in that area."

The large device was found in the Glandore area, not far from a police station.

Dissident republicans have targeted police officers in the past.

In a statement, a police spokeswoman said that explosives experts "carried out a number of controlled explosions on a suspicious vehicle in a car park within the cordoned area last night".

"The examination of another suspicious object will begin at first light," she added.

For three decades, Northern Ireland was scarred by murders and bombings, with Catholic nationalists fighting pro-British Protestant unionists, until peace accords in 1998 largely ended the violence known as the "Troubles".

However, security experts warn that continuing violence by dissident republicans, including an attack on three police officers in November and the planting of a bomb near Belfast airport in October, still poses a threat.

© 2011 AFP

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