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The BBC's Tom Coulter
"There has been an ongoing security operation here since Saturday morning"
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Ronnie Flannagan, Chief Constable of the RUC
"Dissident Republicans pose a very real and very growing threat"
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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 17:11 GMT
Bomb 'largest found' in recent years
The scene was cordoned off by police
The scene was cordoned off by police
Police in Northern Ireland have said an 1,100lb bomb defused on Tuesday is the largest found in recent years.

An RUC spokesman said the bomb, found near Armagh, was designed to kill members of the security forces.

It is thought to have been the work of dissident republican paramilitaries.

A command wire was found about 150 yards from where the device was found.

Searches around the area where the bomb would have been detonated from continue.

The device has now been taken away for forensic examination.

Two controlled explosions were carried out on the bomb during the operation of defuse it.

The explosives were packed into two rubbish bins.

The bomb was discovered at Brootally Cross on the Monaghan Road by a joint police and army patrol on Saturday.

Speaking on Tuesday, RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan said: "It was undoubtedly deployed to kill our officers or to kill our military colleagues who would have passed by".

Dissident republican paramilitaries are opposed to the current peace process in Northern Ireland and have been linked to a number of recent attacks on the security forces.

Seamus Mallon: Condemned those behind the bomb
Seamus Mallon: Condemned those behind the bomb

Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon, of the nationalist SDLP, condemned those involved in the manufacture of the bomb which he said was "clearly designed to kill and maim".

"This was yet another blatant attempt by those opposed to democracy who are intent on destabilising society," he added.

"Those who are engaged in such activities have nothing positive to offer the people of this island."

The security forces carried out a painstaking search of the area for secondary devices, before moving in to defuse the bomb which was primed and ready for use.

It was considered too dangerous for army bomb disposal experts to bring in their equipment by road. Instead it was flown in by helicopter.

Ulster Unionist assembly member for the area Danny Kennedy said the discovery had implications for the security situation.

He said that given the "level of threat" there should not be any reduction in the security network in the area.

"It is operating very effectively against republican dissidents and against paramilitaries in the area," he said.

"Any move against that would be completely disastrous."

Paul Berry: High level of threat
Paul Berry: "Still republican threat"

Paul Berry of the Democratic Unionist Party said there was "still a very high level of threat from the republican movement in south Armagh".

"Security must be increased, not reduced in that area," he said.

Sir Ronnie also said the security forces had been very successful against dissident republicans but there was a danger that the public could become complacent.

Meanwhile, dissident republican paramilitaries have also been blamed for an attack on a police car in County Tyrone.

No-one was injured in the explosion in Cookstown on Sunday night, but the vehicle was damaged.

An object exploded at the rear of a police car in the Drum Road area of the town, close to two hotels.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Clear up operation after 'dissident' blast
16 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Dissidents blamed for RUC attack
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