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Officers escape harm in bomb attack
Three police officers are lucky to be alive after escaping injury in a bomb attack in Northern Ireland, their commander has said.
Police confirmed that a blast near the officers on patrol in north Belfast on Saturday was caused by an explosive device.
The incident is being treated as attempted murder and the finger of suspicion will again point to dissident republicans, who are engaged in a violent campaign against the security forces.
The device detonated around 9.15pm on Saturday as officers responding to a call-out in the Hazelbank area made their way along the Duncrue towpath near the M5 motorway.
PSNI commander for the district Chief Superintendent Henry Irvine condemned those responsible. "This is a well-known area that is used every day by members of the local community," he said.
"It is only by good fortune that police officers and members of the public were not killed or seriously injured last night. Those who carried out this attack have shown complete disregard to the safety of the local community and the police officers serving this community."
While the officers escaped injury, all three were said to be badly shaken.
The police, assisted by Army bomb disposal experts, conducted a lengthy search operation in the wake of the blast. It was more than 24 hours after the incident when the PSNI confirmed an explosive had detonated. "It is believed that the target was police officers and police are now treating it as attempted murder," said a PSNI spokeswoman.
Police have appealed for anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity or vehicles in the area from Friday morning to 9pm on Saturday night to come forward.
The M5 motorway reopened on Sunday night, however the towpath remained closed between the Dargan and Fortwilliam areas. The remains of the device were removed from the scene for further forensic examination.