Man charged in connection with hijacking and bomb hoax in Belfast
The security alert disrupted an event that Simon Coveney was attending.
A 40-year-old man has been charged in connection with a hijacking and bomb hoax in Belfast which disrupted a peace event.
A van driver was threatened by two gunmen and forced to drive his white Vauxhall van a short distance to another street, where a device was then placed in the van.
The driver was led to believe that the device was a live bomb, and that his family was being threatened.
The gunmen forced the driver to make his way towards the Holy Cross Church in Belfast, where an event was being held by the John and Pat Hume Foundation.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was giving an address at the event when he was removed to a secure location following the discovery of the device.
In Belfast with @Humefoundation to honour John & Pat’s legacy of peace for all communities. Saddened & frustrated that someone has been attacked & victimised in this way and my thoughts are with him & his family. My thanks to @PoliceServiceNI https://t.co/bs9LvTKBHW
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) March 25, 2022
The incident was widely condemned by the PSNI and attendees, some of whom were victims of The Troubles.
"Over 25 homes were evacuated, local schools were affected, and vulnerable residents in a local nursing home had to be moved to another part of their home," said Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan.
“Most shamefully, a funeral taking place in the church was disrupted, causing further grief to that family.
“This evening, upon further examination, the device has been declared a hoax.
“It was clearly designed to cause maximum disruption to the local community."
The PSNI believe the incident was carried out by a loyalist paramilitary group, with one of the main line of investigations being the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
The man arrested on Sunday (27 March) was charged with Preparation of Terrorist Acts, Hijacking and Placing an Article Causing Bomb Hoax.
He is due to appear before Laganside Magistrate Court in Belfast on Thursday (31 March).
All charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland.