British Army dismantles car bomb outside police base in Northern Ireland border town

By Shawn Pogatchnik, AP
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

British Army dismantles car bomb in NIreland town

DUBLIN — British Army experts dismantled a dud car bomb Tuesday outside a police base in the Northern Ireland border town of Newtownhamilton, the second such threat in the past two days.

Unlike Monday’s car bomb outside the British spy headquarters in Northern Ireland, the Newtownhamilton device failed to detonate. An Irish Republican Army splinter group called the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the first bomb but has yet to confirm it planted the second.

Police evacuated more than 50 nearby homes after receiving telephone warnings about the abandoned car in Newtownhamilton. British engineers using a remote-controlled robot spent more than 12 hours slowly prising open the car doors and disconnecting the bomb’s power source, timer and wiring from the main explosives, which were liquid and flammable.

The rising dissident IRA threat appears timed to undermine the latest progress in Northern Ireland’s Catholic-Protestant government.

On Monday, the coalition gained responsibility from Britain for law-and-order matters, a step that had taken years of negotiations. The governments of Britain, Ireland and the United States say the move should encourage the Catholic minority to support the police and inform on the IRA dissidents operating in their communities.

The IRA killed nearly 1,800 people in a failed 1970-1997 campaign to get Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. Most IRA members disarmed and renounced violence in 2005, but splinter groups continue to mount attacks in hopes of upsetting political cooperation within Northern Ireland.

For the past decade the dissidents’ car bombs either had been intercepted by police or failed to explode — until Feb. 22, when a small car bomb exploded outside a courthouse in another border town, Newry.

On Monday, dissidents ordered a Belfast taxi driver at gunpoint to deliver a car bomb to the gates of the army base housing the MI5 spy agency. He drove it there, but shouted a warning to security guards about 20 minutes before it detonated.

Neither explosion caused any serious damage or injuries, even though both were near civilian homes.

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