Public asked for bomb scene images

Published Monday, 16 December 2013
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Police have asked members of the public who took photographs in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter at the time a bomb exploded on Friday to contact them if they believe they may help their investigation.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said that "active community information" was important to finding those behind the attack.

"What we need is for the public to look at some of their footage if they were out at a work do on Friday night in that area and they happened to have taken photographs, to check their mobile phones," he commented.

"If they are in any doubt contact us and let detectives screen through the footage, let us have a look at it and see if it can help the investigations - it is very important that they do."

It is believed PSNI are considering releasing a photograph of a male who may have been involved in the bomb plot.

The apparent young age of the suspect caught on CCTV footage is believed to have halted the image's release.

It is understood the pictured individual is not suspected of leaving the device on the footpath, but someone else potentially involved in the terrorist operation.

"We think this is certainly one of our suspects in the investigation into Friday evening," he said.

Dissident republican grouping Óglaigh na hÉireann claimed responsibility for leaving the bomb in a black sports bag in the Exchange Street West area of Cathedral Quarter.

It caused a small explosion shortly before 7pm which police said had the potential to kill. No-one was hurt when the device went off on the footpath while the area was being cleared, about an hour after a warning was phoned in.

A children's pantomime was about to begin in the nearby MAC theatre.

Over the weekend police released a picture of the Slazinger holdall which contained explosives and flammable liquid.

Last month a 130lb proxy car bomb partially exploded at the entrance of the underground car park of the Victoria Square shopping centre as army bomb experts attempted to defuse it, prompting police to step up security measures against dissident republican activity in the city in the run-up to Christmas.

There is no perfect security solution to terrorism. Long term success against terrorism needs a combination of policing, community and political efforts and it is vital we all play our part.

ACC Will Kerr

Following a walkabout at the continental market at City Hall with Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and ACC Kerr on Monday, Chief Constable Matt Baggott praised Belfast as a "great European and world city" but said that "sadly there are those who still want to take it back".

"They have no hope of succeeding," Mr Baggott stressed.

He said it is "beyond belief" that dissident republicans would leave a bomb so close to packed restaurants and a theatre where a children's pantomime was about to begin.

"I'm hugely grateful for the vigilance and the information coming from the public, particularly we saw that again on Friday night," he said.

The Chief Constable said there are a significant number of officers on the street at the moment but he was confident they were striking the balance between security and supporting traders and shoppers.

"You can never stop those people who are so intent on bringing misery to doing something," he commented. "But as we said just recently in the last three years we have charged or reported over 250 people for terrorism related offences.

"Our investigations at the moment are relentless; you have absolute assurance about that. We're making arrests all the time and bringing people before the courts."

Mr Baggott stressed that public support and vigilance was essential to assist police in tackling a "hardcore minority".

"The only answer for them is information, and sadly Maghaberry," he commented.

Belfast is a safe city, we need to be vigilant, if we're vigilant we should be able to go on with our own lives.

Colin Neill, Pubs of Ulster

ACC Kerr reiterated the appeal to the public for their continued support in the weeks coming up to Christmas and to report any suspicious objects to police immediately.

He stressed they were trying to police the area in a "sensible, sensitive way that provides safety and reassurance against a severe terrorist threat" without causing significant disruption.

"In the coming weeks, PSNI will be continuing with an enhanced policing profile across Northern Ireland to provide safety and reassurance to everyone but we also need your help and support," he said.

"We are continuing to engage with our partners within the business community in Belfast and indeed across Northern Ireland to ensure that the balance of how we police this threat is right.

"There may be some disruption as police do their job and there may also be times when we are required to ask for buildings or areas to be evacuated and to that end, we would call on the public to cooperate fully with us as we will always prioritise public safety."

The blast on Friday evening led to the evacuation of around 1,000 people from restaurants and other premises, including a hotel, The MAC, the cathedral and apartments, on one of the busiest nights in the run-up to Christmas.

The incident is thought to have cost the business proprietors tens of thousands of pounds, although some traders said that customers had returned the next day to pay their bills.

Colin Neill, from Pubs of Ulster said: "Obviously, Friday night emptied the bars and restaurants in this area.

"Thankfully we did see that rally later on when things settled down and indeed Saturday night was busy again."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
joe in east belfast wrote (129 days ago):
He said it is "beyond belief" that dissident republicans would leave a bomb so close to packed restaurants and a theatre where a children's pantomime was about to begin... ever heard of bloody Friday Mr Baggott ? my mistake, I forgot PIRA are the good guys these days.
pc plod in belfast bites back wrote (129 days ago):
seriously the police over here are next to useless. Sure tell them of the planned road blocks, sure release a statement telling them that you may release a photo of the suspected bomber. From their point of view im guessing they decided to walk a bomb in rather than drive due to the ropey pr coming from our police farce. Now you release a statement of considering showing a photo of the suspected bomber........probably packing his bags as we speak. jokers!
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