29/03/2011

North Belfast Bomb Alert Follows Shooting

A security operation is underway in the Oldpark area of north Belfast following a claim that a suspicious object has been abandoned in the area.

It came hours after the PSNI was investigating shots being fired in the same area on Monday night. They said earlier today that a number of bullet casings have been found in the Glenview Street area but noted there are no reports of anyone being injured or of any damage caused to properties.

After the probe, the Oldpark Road has now been closed between Manor Street and Oldpark Avenue. Hillview Road has also been closed and Rosapenna Street is closed from the Roseleigh Street junction as the claims are investigated.

A total of around 200 homes are expected to be evacuated, facilities will be provided at Ardoyne Community Centre with the assistance of community groups and partner agencies including Belfast Resilience Forum.

"We are mindful of the disruption the alert is causing to local people and commuters. We would thank people for their continued patience and support," said a police statement.

"Police must protect the community and every decision we take is for the welfare of the community - however the disruption is caused by those who make these claims and cause such distress in our community.

"Nothing suspicious has been found at this stage however enquiries are ongoing. We would again remind the public to report any suspicious activity and not to touch any unusual items," the PSNI spokesperson said, noting that anyone with information should contact police by calling 0845 600 8000.

Earlier today, the area's DUP MP, Nigel Dodds commenting on the shots being fired last night in Glenview Street, off Oldpark Road.

"There are clearly elements within the republican community which don't want to give up violence for their own selfish purposes. While no injuries have been reported in this incident I note that bullet casings have been found at the scene.

"This fits into a pattern of intimidation and attacks involving the use of guns, pipe-bombs and explosive devices by so-called dissident republicans in north Belfast.

"The illegal use of firearms in a built-up area must be utterly condemned. Clearly this will have been shocking for local residents and could have had very serious consequences. In responding to such incidents the police must be wary of any potential trap, as set by terrorists on the Antrim Road in January," he said.

"These criminal elements are a plague on society and I would urge the entire community to unite against them. Anyone with information on who is responsible for these reckless acts of violence should make that available to the police," he said.

Also today, it was revealed that a small bomb was found during an earlier security alert in west Belfast.

The Army has recovered what has been described as "a small hand-held explosive device" found on wasteland off the Grosvenor Road.

Police have said it "could have killed or seriously injured anyone in close proximity had it exploded".

The device was found at the back of Michael Dwyer's GAA club in Gibson Street and about 30 homes, a doctor's surgery, a Fold housing development and commercial premises were evacuated yesterday.

(BMcC)

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