Small explosion in Belfast city centre

PSNI officers in central Belfast tonight. Picture: PA

There has been a small explosion in Belfast city centre, police said.

The incident in the Cathedral Quarter area came after a telephone bomb warning had been made.

The Exchange Street West area where the explosion happened is close to many restaurants and bars.

The city centre was extremely busy with shoppers and festive revellers when the incident happened.

Hundreds of people were being evacuated from the area when the explosion happened. There are no reports of any injuries at this stage.

It is understood the incident was not a car bomb attack, with officers believing a small-scale device was used.

The finger of suspicion will again point at dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

Security has been ramped up in Belfast since a man was forced by masked dissidents to drive a car bomb to a shopping centre that faces a police station last month.

He abandoned the vehicle at the entrance of the Victoria Square centre car park.

That 60kg device only partially exploded and no-one was injured.

Earlier in November dissidents were also blamed when a bus driver in Derry was forced to drive a bomb to a police station in the city. She abandoned the vehicle before reaching the destination and the device did not explode.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesman said: ``A number of businesses and streets in the Cathedral area of Belfast have been cordoned off following a small explosion.

“It occurred at about 6.45pm as police were checking reports of a suspicious object.

“At this stage there are no reports of any injuries.”

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