UK & World News
Belfast Bomb: Attackers 'Stoop To New Low'
A bomb attack in Belfast city centre is a "new low" for dissident republicans opposed to the peace process, the Northern Ireland Secretary has said.
Theresa Villiers described the blast in the bustling Cathedral Quarter as a "despicable attack that could have put lives at risk and injured many people".
"It's particularly callous to carry out this sort of attack at a time when people are starting their festive celebrations or maybe finishing their Christmas shopping," she told Sky News.
"An attack at this time of year is stooping to a new low."
Christmas partygoers were evacuated when the device exploded just before 7pm on Friday evening, although there were no reports of any injuries.
The bomb, which had been placed inside a holdall, consisted of explosives and flammable liquid, police said.
A warning call was made to a newspaper but the device was left about 150 metres away from the location named.
Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said: "This was an attack on the people of Belfast going about their normal lives on a busy night for socialising in the city.
"Those who carried out this attack have nothing to offer except disruption and destruction."
Stormont's Justice Minister David Ford said the blast was an "attempt to kill or injure innocent people".
"The people carrying out these attacks have set out no reason and explained no cause for their acts of senseless violence," he said.
"Their only aim seems to be to injure and disrupt. They ignore the strength of public support for normality and peace, especially at this Christmas season."
First Minister Peter Robinson said the bomb was "the work of a mindless minority who are intent on taking the heart out of the city", while his deputy, Martin McGuinness, said the attackers had shown "complete disregard for life".
Security measures have been ramped up in Belfast on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.
The threat level remains at severe and police urged local residents to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour.
The blast comes less than three weeks after a bus driver was forced by masked dissidents to drive a car bomb to a shopping centre that faces a police station.
The 60kg (132lb) device only partially exploded and no-one was injured.
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