30/10/2001

RUC blame dissident republicans for bus bomb

Dissident republican paramilitaries are being held responsible for a bomb on a hijacked bus outside a west Belfast police station.

The device, containing an estimated 5kg of explosives, went off on the bus on Stewartstown Road near the gates of the Woodbourne RUC station on Monday October 29, as army experts tried to defuse it.

There were no injuries, and damage was restricted to the gates and the bus.

Two armed and masked men ordered the sole passenger off the bus, placed the device carried in a holdall three seats behind the driver and ordered him to drive to the police station.

On arrival the men fled and the driver raised the alarm. An army bomb disposal team tried to defuse the device but it exploded during the operation.

Houses on the Stewartstown Road had already been evacuated, after the bus was hijacked earlier in the day from the Shaws road bus terminus in west Belfast.

Superintendent Maggie Hunter the local police Commander said: "It is not only the driver who was placed in danger, but others on the road and living nearby. Had the device gone off while the driver was driving it to Woodbourne, it certainly would have placed people in very grave danger".

A spokesperson for bus and rail company Translink said: “We condemn this attack which was obviously designed to put lives at risk. We provide a service for all sides of the community and what must be remembered is that ultimately the community suffers. Money used to repair the damaged bus could be better spent improving services locally.” (AMcE)

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