LONDON - Irish republican terrorists could carry out deadly attacks in the run up to next month's anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule, a police chief warned Friday after a bomb wounded a prison officer in Belfast.
Dissident republicans who do not support the ongoing peace process could use the historical milestone to target law enforcement or military personnel in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin told reporters.
The warning came after a bomb seriously wounded a prison officer as he drove to work in Belfast during the morning commute. The 52-year-old, who is married with children, required surgery in hospital but his condition was described as "stable."
Police said the bombers "intended to kill" the officer but their device may have dislodged as the van went over a speed bump, lessening the impact.
More attacks are "highly likely," Martin warned, saying police are "deeply concerned by the current threat picture."
The Easter Rising, an armed insurrection against British rule that led to the creation of the Irish Republic, will be marked by a series of public events in both Ireland and British-controlled Northern Ireland.
Martin promised "sensitive" policing of all events, but warned: "There are people within dissident republican groupings who want to mark the Easter 2016 100th anniversary in an entirely more sinister way, who want to kill police officers, prison officers and soldiers."
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, whose republican Sinn Fein party endorses the peace process, condemned Friday's bomb and described it as "despicable and futile."