Belfast firebomber 'may be badly injured'

A firebomber might have suffered burns to his face, neck and hands after a device exploded as he was about to plant it in a Belfast city centre store.

He fled through crowded nearby streets desperately attempting to beat out the flames when the incendiary bomb went off prematurely underneath an anorak-type jacket.

Up to 15 people were inside the pop-up golf store at the time. None was hurt, but the bomber – a man in his mid-40s who was also wearing a beany hat – was engulfed in flames and almost certainly badly injured, according to police today.

Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said: “We believe this man may require treatment for burns injuries, to neck, face and hands.”

Dissident republicans are believed to have been involved in the failed attack, the latest in a series in Belfast in the run-up to Christmas.

They tried to blow up an underground car park at the Victoria Centre, the city’s biggest shopping centre, and then abandoned a bomb in a holdall in the Cathedral Quarter last Friday night. Up to 1,000 people had to be evacuated from pubs, clubs and restaurants, but only the bomb detonators went off.

Security has been stepped up because of the heightened threat. With three men due in court in Belfast today to face a number of terrorist-related charges - some of them linked to a gun attack on police in north Belfast – checkpoints have been mounted on roads across Northern Ireland.

The remains of the incendiary device recovered last night showed it was the first of this type used by terrorists for some time.

Mr McCrum said: “Police are doing everything to protect Belfast and other places to enable people to go about their business peacefully.”

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