IRA-style booby trap bomb wounds prison officer in Belfast

DUBLIN (AP) — Irish Republican Army die-hards tried to kill a Belfast prison officer with an under-car booby trap bomb and are plotting to kill Northern Ireland security forces as the 100th anniversary of an Irish rebellion against British rule approaches, a police commander warned Friday.

Stephen Martin, assistant chief constable of the Northern Ireland police, issued the warning hours after a 52-year-old prison officer was wounded when a small bomb partly detonated under his van.

The man had just driven away from his home in Protestant east Belfast to go to work when police believe the bomb fell off of the vehicle as it drove over a speed bump. The officer, a 28-year veteran of the prison service, underwent surgery for unspecified wounds and was reported in stable condition.

For decades, IRA factions have used bombs attached to a vehicle’s undercarriage to target politicians, judges, off-duty police, soldiers and prison officers while they’re driving personal vehicles. Such bombs typically detonate under the driver’s seat when the vehicle travels uphill or downhill.

Easter has been a focal point for Irish republican militancy dating to 1916, when 1,500 rebels seized key Dublin buildings in a bid to overthrow British rule. The Easter Rising, though militarily futile, inspired a 1919-21 war with Britain that won independence for the predominantly Catholic south of Ireland but kept the fledgling state of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

The Republic of Ireland government plans major public commemorations and cultural events in Dublin for the 100th anniversary later this month, when government leaders don the traditional symbol of Irish rebellion on their lapels, the Easter lily.

Martin said he expected IRA splinter groups still active in Northern Ireland to mark the approach of Easter “in an entirely more sinister way … by killing police officers, prison officers or soldiers.”