By Liz Stephens
A 600lb bomb was found near the Irish border yesterday in the most serious threat to peace in Northern Ireland for six months.
The bomb, which was diffused by the army, was found near the village of Forkhill in South Armagh. It allegedly had a command wire which ran across the border into the Republic.
It was bigger than the bomb which killed 29 people in 1998 in the town centre of Omagh.
The bomb is the most significant threat to the peace since dissident Republican splinter group, the Continuity IRA, murdered a police officer six months ago.
Allegedly, a source has suggested that an ambush of a police patrol was also planned but later abandoned.
Police commander Sam Cordner said: "There could have been a devastating outcome to this incident.
"The actions of terrorist criminals in planting this device in the Forkhill area put local people and police officers at significant risk. Their actions were reckless and dangerous in the extreme.
"Their target may have been the police, but they did not care who they killed or injured."
Northern Ireland justice minister Dermot Ahern condemned the would-be bombers.
"We spent years negotiating with the British to demilitarise the Border.
"Those involved in this action are trying to reverse that work - to stop normalisation - to remilitarise the Border, cutting North from South once more. Their actions are anti-republican."
Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy, himself a convicted former Provisional IRA member, also condemned the dissidents.
"I challenge those who planted this bomb in the community to come forward and explain why they have done so. How is this furthering the struggle for Irish freedom?" he said.
Dominic Bradley of the Social and Democratic Labour Party said: "This is the most serious threat yet from dissident republicans to the people of South Armagh."
It is the third bombing attempt to be foiled by the police in the region this year.