POLICE officers in Northern Ireland were last night warned to be vigilant after members of the force escaped injury during a bomb attack in Belfast.
A bomb hidden in the grounds of Belfast City Cemetery was triggered just as a police vehicle was passing at 10.30pm on Friday night.
Four officers were caught in the blast as well as a Filipino family with three children aged 16, 13 and 11 who were driving past.
None were seriously hurt but the family were treated for shock and their car was damaged.
A Police Service Northern Ireland spokesman said the device was left at the cemetery and detonated using a command wire.
Superintendent Barbara Gray said: “This was not only a deliberate attempt to kill police officers but was an attack on the community of West Belfast, and it is only through good fortune no-one, either police or civilian, was seriously injured or killed last night.”
Republican extremists who do not want the peace process have redoubled their efforts to kill members of the PSNI, who were also the subject of a second, earlier attack when a bomb was found under a car.
Yesterday the chairman of the Police Federation warned officers to be vigilant. Terry Spence vowed that dissident republicans would not succeed in plunging the country back into full-scale conflict.
Mr Spence said: “The officers were fortunate to escape unhurt in what was a clear attempt to murder and maim.
“Those responsible have absolutely no regard or respect for life. It was a reckless, cowardly and futile action by individuals who have nothing to offer.”
Sinn Fein blamed dissident republicans and condemned them. West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said: “I have to condemn whoever carried this out. I am sure it is dissident republicans. They should be ashamed of themselves. We are very lucky this young family is not hurt or dead.”
The bombing appears to have been a deliberate attempt to embarrass Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who were in Washington to meet senior members of the Obama administration as part of St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
The Falls Road area was busy, and more than 500 people there were enjoying a night out. Many people passed the bomb site.
The earlier bomb placed under a car fell from the vehicle and failed to explode, at Blacks Road – a busy route close to the M1 and Woodbourne police station.