A violent dissident republican group calling itself the ‘New IRA’ has said it was behind the murder bid of a prison officer in east Belfast.
The 52-year-old warder suffered serious injuries when a bomb partially exploded under his van at 7.10 am on Friday morning
The ‘New IRA’ claimed he was targeted for training officers at the top security Maghaberry Prison even though he worked as a training officer at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre.
Detectives from the PSNi’s Terrorist Investigation Unit (TIU) arrested three men, aged 34, 41 and 45, and a 34-year-old woman under section 41 of the Terrorism Act.
They are currently being quizzed at the serious crime custody suite in Musgrave PSNI station in Belfast.
Detectives said the device partially exploded when the prison officer, a father of three, drove over a speed ramp in Hillsborough Drive.
The Belfast Trust say he remains in a table condition in hospital.
The injured warder is now under armed guard by the PSNI while he recovers.
In a statement to the BBC, the group said he was one of a number of prison officers on a list of “potential targets”.
They claimed he was targeted because he was responsible for training prison officers who work in a wing housing dissident republicans at Maghaberry prison.
A spokesman for the group said last week’s attack was the result of an ongoing dispute between dissidents and the prison authorities about their treatment in the prison.
The ‘New IRA’ claimed the device contained a quantity of Semtex and a commercial detonator.
The same dissident organisation shot dead prison officer David Black as he drove to work at Maghaberry in November 2012.
Police chiefs said dissidents were trying to crank up its terror campaign to mark the 10oth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
ACC Constable Stephen Martin warned that further attacks in the run up to Easter were “highly likely”.
Speaking a press conference following Friday’s attack, ACC Martin said: “The threat is severe. That means an attack is highly possible.
“But we are deeply concerned by the current threat picture.
“In recent weeks we have been increasing patrols across Northern Ireland and we intend to do that in the coming weeks up to and through Easter.
“Easter is a very very important part of the annual calendar. This year it has much greater and increased significance.
“It’s the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. That’s a very important date, particularly for people from the nationalist/republican community.
“We will be culturally sensitive in our policing of the Easter ’16 events.
“However, there are people within dissident republican groupings who want to mark the Easter 2016 100th anniversary in an entirely sinister way.
“Who want to kill police officers, prison officers or soldiers.”
He appealed for the help of the community to deal with the dissident threat.