Schoolboy finds pipe bomb in Northern Ireland

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A Northern Ireland school was evacuated Monday after an eight-year-old boy found a pipe bomb in the playground, in what police said was a "cowardly" attack blamed on militants opposed to the peace process.

Police in the British-run province said a "viable device" was found at the primary school in Antrim and warned that it was only by "sheer good fortune" that none of the children were hurt.

The boy, Brendan Shannon, told the BBC he had spotted what looked like a "golden pipe thing" in the playground as he arrived at St Comgall's school.

"I just got off my bike and just touched it to see if it was okay. Then I just lifted it up," he said.

Shannon carried the piece of copper piping to show his teacher, who found a banger-type device packed inside, local lawmaker Thomas Burns told AFP, adding that three similar devices had been found near homes in Antrim last month.

He said a pro-British militant group was being blamed for planting the bombs, which come amid a spate of small-scale attacks in recent months mainly committed by nationalist militants opposed to the peace process in the province.

The pupils at the Antrim school were swiftly evacuated to a nearby church hall.

The device "has been declared viable and has been removed for further examination," a police spokeswoman said.

Another school in the town was also evacuated Monday after a warning was called to local media and was being investigated, police said.

Chief Inspector Simon Walls described those responsible as "cowardly criminals", adding: "It is by sheer good fortune that we are not dealing with a severely injured child right now."

Northern Ireland was wracked by three decades of sectarian violence that largely ended with the 1998 Good Friday peace accords, which led to the creation of a power-sharing government between Catholic nationalist parties who want to be part of Ireland and pro-British Protestant unionists.

© 2010 AFP

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