LONDON (AFP) – A viable pipe bomb was found near a war memorial in the Northern Irish town Omagh ahead of a Remembrance Sunday (Nov 12) parade, police confirmed.
The “pipe bomb type device” has been removed for forensic examination, as investigators probe if it was planted by dissident republicans, Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable George Hamilton said in a statement on Sunday.
“This small but potentially dangerous device was left to cause the maximum amount of disruption to the Remembrance Sunday commemorations,” he said.
“Whilst our investigation into the incident is at a very early stage one strong line of enquiry is that violent dissident republicans are responsible.”
The chief constable called the culprits “a small and callous group of violent people who have nothing to offer our communities other than fear and intimidation.”
The discovery of the device led to the diversion of an annual Remembrance Sunday march, while a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the town’s cenotaph was postponed, according to media reports. It comes almost two decades after a dissident republican bombing killed 29 people in the busy market town, in 1998.
Chief Constable Hamilton added: “Their actions today have demonstrated the disregard and disrespect they have for this community, which has already suffered so much pain and hurt at the hands of terrorists.”
“It was a sickening and appalling act on a day which should bring people together to remember the sacrifice made by people from all our communities.”
Northern Ireland was riven by three decades of conflict before the signing of a landmark peace agreement in 1998 that introduced devolved government. However, strong sectarian tensions remain between Catholic Irish nationalists and Protestant British unionists, with intermittent acts of violence and arms seizures by police.
This latest incident comes at a sensitive time for semi-autonomous Northern Ireland. Its power-sharing executive fell apart in January amid disagreements among political parties, leading Britain to say it will begin legislating for a new budget later this month.
Meanwhile, Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2019 has raised concerns about the possible re-introduction of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
It is one of three key divorce issues that the EU insists must be resolved before talks can progress to discussing a post-Brexit trade deal. The British government have said they are searching for pragmatic solutions to the border issue but offered no detailed proposals publicly.