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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 12:41 GMT
Dissidents attempt 'police trap'

Police search
Police took items away for examination by forensic scientists

A hoax bomb warning by dissident republicans was an attempt to lure security forces into a real explosion, police have said.

The Real IRA is being blamed for leaving a bomb containing 20kgs of explosives in County Down which was found hidden on the Bryansford Road area of Newcastle on Tuesday.

Sources told the BBC that the dissident republicans had been planning an attack on the security forces.

It is understood the bomb had a timer attached.

Police believe that a false trail was set up in an attempt to lure them into the path of a real explosion.

Initially, a telephone warning was given on Tuesday about a suspect device at the vacant Enniskeen Hotel in the town.

A recognised codeword - used by a dissident republican group - was given.

We were led to believe there was only one device and they anticipated we would seal off the area where the real bomb was hidden
PSNI Inspector Paul McClean
At about lunchtime, the area was cordoned off as Army bomb experts examined the scene. However, it turned out to be an elaborate hoax.

The real bomb was in nearby Bryansford Road.

PSNI Inspector Paul McClean said: "A lot of planning went into this deliberate and reckless attempt to kill police officers.

"We were led to believe there was only one device and they anticipated we would seal off the area where the real bomb was hidden."

Gardens were searched during police operation
Up to 25 homes were evacuated, with families being taken to a nearby church hall, as officers spent 10 hours making the bomb found near the Bryansford Road safe.

"This device was left to be activated with a timer," said Mr McClean.

"Anyone could have been in the area and wounded or worse. This isn't the first time this type of incident has happened in this area and we are urging the wider community to be vigilant."

BBC NI's Shane Glynn reports
"The police say this could have been a scene of absolute carnage"

Dissident threat 'significant'
12 Oct 03  |  Northern Ireland

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