Suspected mortar bomb found on Ballygomartin Road, Belfast

Mervyn Jess reports for BBC Newsline

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Police have confirmed they have found what they have called a mortar bomb type device in the Ballygomartin Road area of west Belfast.

They said they believe it may have been aimed at New Barnsley police station.

Homes in the area were evacuated and two primary schools were closed as army bomb experts deal with the device.

Most residents were allowed to return to their houses on Friday night, with the exception of about 20 homes at Blackmountain Walk.

Earlier, a funeral in the Black Mountain estate was disrupted due to the alert.

The device was spotted by a police officer coming off duty at New Barnsley.

PSNI Area Commander, Superintendent Emma Bond, said the discovery was made at about 07:15 GMT on a piece of waste ground, close to schools and homes.

Supt Bond said police believe it had been transported to the site in a vehicle some time between Thursday night and Friday morning and she appealed to the public for information.

She added it would be some time before they could confirm whether or not the device was viable as the examination would be a lengthy process.

Superintendent Emma Bond, briefed reporters on the discovery.

The terrain proved difficult for the army bomb disposal team - their first robot toppled over during a squall and a second vehicle was sent in to deal with the suspect device.

Springhill and Black Mountain schools were closed and some of the people who were moved from their homes were given at Ballygomartin Presbyterian church and the Whiterock Community Centre.

It is the fourth similar incident in the area in recent weeks.

DUP assembly member William Humphrey said those responsible were "deranged".

"It is utterly appalling and disgusting that terrorists should put lives at risk by preparing such an attack," he said.

"If this device had been deployed it could have caused indiscriminate slaughter, whether in the police station or among people living in houses on either side.

"The fact that it was discovered close to two primary schools only adds to their recklessness.

"This is a reminder of the terror which some deranged people want to drag us back to."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was willing to take part in talks with those responsible for the incident.

Evacuated

Mr McGuinness, who is out of the country, tweeted: "Mortars. Thankfully, like the strategy of those responsible for them, haven't worked. Should find courage to talk. Willing to talk to them? Yes."

Justice Minister David Ford said: "This latest attempted attack is utterly disgraceful. There will be very few who will not join me in condemning the actions of those responsible.

A funeral was disrupted by the bomb alert A funeral was disrupted by the bomb alert

"It is clear from the position of the mortar device that many people in the local community were put at significant risk, including school children, families, police officers, the elderly and local construction workers."

West Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said: "It's not just the unionist community that has been affected. It's both communities."

Mr Sheehan said homes on two estates and a nursing home in a nationalist area near the police station had been evacuated.

"So we are sharing the hurt here today and the people responsible need to get off the backs of both communities, pack up and go away, because they are just parasites on the community."

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