30/03/2011

Controlled Explosions In North Belfast Alert

Up to 200 families have been evacuated from their homes in north Belfast as Army bomb experts carried out the second of two controlled explosions on a suspicious device today.

Police had been undertaking searches for the object since Tuesday afternoon.

Hundreds of people had been warned they could spend two to three days out of their homes and Ardoyne community centre was opened for residents.

PSNI Superintendent Amanda Cooke said that it was a major operation and police have to take every precaution in such a built-up area.

She commented: "Experience has shown us that these calls come in and they're not substantiated. We need to look and see if there's something here. We have experience in this area of secondary devices and other traps being left for police and we need to ensure that everyone is safe when they're moving in."

The alert had caused major disruption in the surrounding area and follows reports of a shooting incident in the Oldpark area on Monday night.

A number of shots were heard at Glenview Street off the Oldpark Road.

A PSNI spokesperson said that there were no reports of anyone being injured or of any damage caused to properties and commented: "We would ask for local people's continued patience and co-operation, as we endeavour to ensure that the area in which they live is absolutely safe."

One eyewitness, who didn't want to be named, was in the street with his children when the gunman appeared.

Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate for North Belfast, Fred Cobain has expressed his anger at the situation.

Mr Cobain commented: "This was an act of lunacy, it's a wonder that no one has been seriously injured. As a result we now have a serious disruption caused to over 200 local people in the Oldpark area who have been asked to leave their homes and are unsure of when they will be able to return to them.
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"Just as with the disruption caused by the recent on left on the Antrim Road, these attacks must be condemned without reservation. There is no place for such acts in 2011, local people do not want this and the persons responsible need to realise that they are not welcome in north Belfast."

Similar condemnation came from North Belfast Alliance Representative Billy Webb and Alliance Oldpark Representative James McClure.

Billy Webb said: "The disruption caused by this ongoing alert is absolutely appalling. Those seeking to cause fear and mayhem in our society are simply a disgrace. People are sick of this and are sick of thugs who get involved in such activities."

James McClure said: "Those who want to disruption in people's everyday lives should reflect on their actions and realise that they will never and can never destabilise the peace that we have built here. I would appeal to anyone who can help police with their investigation into this to contact them immediately."

Sinn Fein representatives including the former MLA, Gerry Kelly have met with the PSNI in relation to the ongoing security alert.

Mr Kelly commented: "Once again we have been left with a situation, like the recent alert on the Antrim Road, where ordinary people, young and old alike, have had to be taken from their homes and forced elsewhere.

"The reality for the people responsible is that the community in north Belfast and right across Ireland are opposed to what they are doing; they are causing untold and unnecessary trauma on the community and for what reason they are still unwilling or indeed unable to tell us. I would call on those responsible to stop what they are doing and to stop inflicting this on our people."

See: North Belfast Bomb Alert Follows Shooting

(JG)

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