08/04/2011

Drivers Risk Lives In Border Bomb Alert

Motorists are dicing with death on the Irish border today in Northern Ireland, despite what is expected to be a "long and complex operation" as Army bomb experts examine a suspicious van abandoned on the A1 carriage in Co Down.

A senior PSNI said on Friday afternoon that it will be a long operation "however we are working to deal with this suspect vehicle as quickly as possible to minimise disruption to the city of Newry and the traffic on both the main A1 and the rail network".

It was one of two new security alerts underway this morning, just hours after Army bomb experts carried out a controlled explosion on a suspect device found in Co Londonderry on Thursday morning.

Yesterday, the suspect item was seen on the Gortmacrane Road in Kilrea and the device was later found to be a deliberate hoax.

Overnight, the main Belfast to Dublin road - the A1 at Newry - was closed due to the suspicious van that has been found at an underpass.

And while police had said the vehicle was "cordoned off", some motorists have been able to get too close for safety.

BBC NI reports from the scene at 9am this morning said that diverted traffic was returning to the affected stretch of road, news that spurred the PSNI to warn motorists ignoring or moving traffic cones close to the scene of the alert that they have a "blatant disregard" for people's safety.

The border security alert began shortly before 11pm on Thursday after two bomb warnings were received by the Daisy Hill Hospital and a charity.

The railway line between Newry and Dundalk has also been closed because of the ongoing security alert.

Passengers are being transported by bus between these stations.

Local MP, Conor Murphy has said that the people responsible for the alert on the A1 on the outskirts of Newry have succeeded in nothing but bringing disruption to local people going about their business.

The Sinn Fein's MP and outgoing Stormont Executive Minister said: "The disruption caused this morning has only succeeded in disrupting the lives of local people and the people responsible need to realise that they are failing miserably in attempting to bring us backwards into conflict.

"I can assure the people responsible that people will make the extra effort to ensure that normal business is carried out in the city today.

"However I am concerned that the suspect vehicle was able to be approached by members of the public after the alarm was raised."

A Garda statement said: "There is a security alert being dealt with by the PSNI outside Newry and Gardai are diverting traffic off the M1 Northbound at Exit 18, diversions are in place.

"There are similar diversion southbound north of Newry. This operation will continue until further notice."

Meanwhile, there were also reports of two suspect devices in Lurgan this morning - where there was violence earlier in the week when the PSNI responded to similar alerts - and were attacked by rioting mobs of youths.

They have since been declared as hoaxes, but not until after a number of people were moved from their homes at Francis Street and Castle Lane Mews in the town.

Army bomb experts carried out controlled explosions on two suspect devices, both of which were later declared hoaxes.

(BMcC/GK)

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