Northern Ireland

Belfast police checkpoints halt 2,000 vehicles in Christmas security operation

Almost 2,000 vehicles have been stopped at checkpoints aimed at disrupting dissident republicans in recent weeks, police have said.

An increased police presence has been in place since a car bomb partially exploded outside Victoria Square shopping centre on 24 November.

More than 300 checkpoints were put in place around the city at various times.

Chief Supt Alan McCrum said the security checks were "more sporadic" than during the Troubles.

However, he said their locations were "unpredictable".

"The checkpoints are much shorter in length but they also have a significant deterrent effect so we achieve a greater balance between public reassurance and protection," he said.

At the outset of the security operation, traders concerned about losing business in the run-up to Christmas had been assured that it would be "sensitive" to their needs.

Chief Supt McCrum said on Tuesday that the increased checkpoints had not impacted on the commercial life of the city.

Senior police officers have said the threat from dissident republicans remained severe.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said: "There is a threat coming from dissident republican groups to the city centre and wider provincial towns.

"The only aim of terrorism is to cause disruption."

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