DUBLIN, Ireland – A 500-pound van bomb defused Saturday near the Irish border probably was destined to strike a town center or landmark building in a bid to undermine Northern Ireland’s election campaign, police and political leaders said.
Police Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson said the dissident IRA bomb left Thursday night under a freeway overpass was properly constructed but abandoned before it could be detonated. He said it was likely that the attackers stopped short of their intended target because of a police road checkpoint.
Robinson said the bomb – roughly double the size of a half-dozen car bombs that Irish Republican Army dissidents detonated last year in Northern Ireland – “was a sophisticated device and it would have been devastating had it reached its destination.”
Last year’s bombs outside security installations, courthouses and a hotel all caused little damage and no serious injuries. The last lethal car bomb in Northern Ireland also was the most deadly: an August 1998 attack by the Real IRA splinter group on the town of Omagh that killed 29 people, mostly women and children.
A Protestant member of a cross-community panel that oversees the police, Jonathan Bell, said Saturday’s defused bomb was similar in size to the Omagh bomb. “We could have had another example of mass murder on our hands today,” he said.
Graves discovery prompts warning
MEXICO CITY – U.S. officials are warning Americans about the dangers of intercity bus travel in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas following the discovery of graves with 72 bodies, some apparently of people pulled off buses by gangs.
The U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros, Tamaulipas says between late March and early April it received three reports from U.S. citizens or their families regarding buses being boarded by criminals.
It also says there are potential hazards with highway travel in private vehicles in the region, which is being disputed by cartels.
The consulate warning Friday was the third one about highway travel in Tamaulipas in the past five months.
Investigators uncovered the 72 bodies around San Fernando, where same number of migrants were massacred last August.
Attacks intensify in Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Palestinian militants fired more than 30 rockets at southern Israel on Saturday and Israeli warplanes killed five militants in the Gaza Strip in the most intense fighting since Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive in the Hamas-ruled territory.
The escalating series of strikes and counterstrikes has killed 18 Gazans since it began on Thursday following a Hamas missile attack against an Israeli school bus. The continuing clashes are increasing the probability of a full-scale military confrontation.
Israeli officials said the airstrikes would continue as long as the rocket attacks persist. Hamas officials insisted they were trying to restore quiet, but said they were prepared to fight.
“Hamas will not stand idle in front of this escalation,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. “We have exercised a limited response so far, but we warn the occupation against continuing with their crimes.”