Letter bomb sent to Theresa Villiers, the top UK official in Northern Ireland


Loyalist protesters gather at Belfast City Hall during a city council meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland on January 7, 2013. Violence flared again in Northern Ireland, after politicians and Church leaders held talks in a bid to quell a row over the flying of the British flag.



A letter bomb was sent to the United Kingdom’s top official in Northern Ireland on Tuesday. The British Army defused it before it exploded.

It’s the fourth letter bomb mailed to a public official in Northern Ireland in the past week.

Former Irish Republican Army members who are hostile to the peace process between Britain and Northern Ireland are suspected of sending the bombs. They believe a peace deal could stand in the way of their dream of a united Ireland.

Theresa Villiers, the UK's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, was the target of Tuesday’s letter bomb, sent to her at Stormont Castle in east Belfast. She was not there but in London meeting with Richard N. Haass, the former American diplomat and current president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Previous bombs were sent to two top police officers and the state prosecutor’s office.

“I utterly condemn the attempted attacks we’ve seen over recent days,” Villiers said in a statement. “If those responsible think that this kind of criminal activity will further any agenda, then they are completely mistaken.”

"Those responsible for sending this, and other devices, through the post have absolutely no regard for the lives of postal workers and staff working in offices," Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson said.

"They will not further any aim or objective by their vile and callous deeds. Northern Ireland will not be dragged back by terrorists who have nothing but misery to offer."