EXCLUSIVE: ARMY RECRUITMENT OFFICE TARGET OF PALACE BARRACKS FIREBOMBERS

Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down

Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down

DETECTIVES now believe the ‘small bomb’ which detonated yesterday morning on board a Royal Mail postal van inside a British Army base was destined for its recruitment office.

Belfast Daily can reveal that the package was addressed to a senior figure in the recruitment office inside Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down.

However, the device appears to have exploded prematurely before it reached its intended target.

The attack has now prompted a major review of security at the sprawling Co Down base which houses MI5’s £30 million ‘puzzle palace’.

Police initially confirmed they were aware of the incident at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down.

“The cause of the fire is currently being investigated,” a PSNI spokesperson said before lunchtime yesterday.

However, around 1 pm, Belfast Daily revealed that detectives from the PSNI’s Terrorist Investigation Unit were probing the incident after a “small bomb” went off inside the vehicle.

By 4 pm, the PSNI said  “a suspected explosion is one line of enquiry” after a fire in a postal delivery van at Palace Barracks.

The new head of the PSNI’s Terrorist Investigation Unit, Det Supt Karen Baxter said: “Due to the damage caused by the fire and water, the exact nature or make up of the device that cause the explosion has yet to be established.

“We are working with Royal Mail to potential risk of any further devices in the postal system.”

This latest attack also points up that there is a major gap in the PSNI’s intelligence gathering system.

MI5, which has primacy on intelligence gathering in Northern Ireland, also have questions to answer as to how it wasn’t alerted to this latest attack.

It is not the first time Palace Barracks has been targeted by dissident republicans.

In April 2010, the Real IRA planted a bomb in a taxi which exploded outside the rear gate to the complex which also houses MI5’s headquarters in Northern Ireland.

Seven Army recruitment offices were targeted in February 2014 during a spate of attempted incendiary bomb attacks.

The campaign prompted a major review of security ordered by 1o Downing Street.

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