Massive bomb left on Belfast-Dublin road

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A massive bomb abandoned underneath the main road linking Belfast and Dublin could have been destined for a town centre, Northern Irish police said Saturday.

A trash bin packed with 500 pounds (225 kilogrammes) of home-made explosives was left in the back of a van in an underpass below the A1 near the southeastern city of Newry, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland.

Police carried out a series of controlled explosions on the viable device.

Detectives believe the van was abandoned in the underpass due to the presence of a police checkpoint.

The bomb comes days after Northern Ireland was rocked by the killing of rookie Catholic police officer Ronan Kerr amid fears that dissident republicans opposed to the peace process are stepping up their activities.

Local police commander Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson said the bomb could have caused "huge devastation and loss of life", and the perpetrators had left poor warnings.

He said the stolen van had registration plates from the Irish Republic.

Robinson said drivers had either removed or gone straight through a traffic cone cordon, meaning that hundreds of other motorists drove right past the bomb-laden vehicle.

Jonathan Bell, a member of Northern Ireland's Policing Board, which supervises the province's police, said the bombers had planted "500 pounds of hatred aimed at murder".

"500 pounds of explosives were planted to kill, and we could have had another example of mass murder on our hands," he said.

"Had this device exploded the consequences are almost too horrible to contemplate.

"We could have had serious fatalities."

Police are continuing to question three men over Kerr's murder.

The policeman's funeral on Wednesday produced a united show of cross-community condemnation of the attack.

© 2011 AFP

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