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Northern Ireland police discover bomb under officer's car

BELFAST (Reuters) - Police in Northern Ireland discovered a bomb under a police officer’s car in Belfast on Saturday that they said was probably planted by militant nationalists intent on killing one of their officers had it not been detected in time.

While a 1998 peace deal largely ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, police officers are sporadically targeted by small splinter groups still active in the British-run province.

The suspicious object was detected in the east of the city on Saturday and declared a viable improvised explosive device following examination by ammunitions officers.

“Our belief is that this attempted murder was carried out by violent dissident republicans. They don’t care who they attack, they don’t care who they kill. They are simply anti-peace and anti-democracy,” Sean Wright, the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Head of Terrorism Investigation Unit said in a statement.

Militant nationalists from the New IRA group placed a car bomb which detonated outside a courthouse in Londonderry in January. No one was injured in the blast.

The killing of a journalist by members of the same group during a riot in the city last month has raised fears militants are trying to exploit political tensions caused by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. [nL5N22651Q]

Some 3,600 people were killed in the sectarian conflict that began in the late 1960s between mainly Protestant unionists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and predominantly Catholic nationalists.

Reporting by Amanda Ferguson; Writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Hugh Lawson