3 children suffer minor injuries in Northern Ireland bomb blast

LONDON (AP) — Three children suffered minor injuries in a bomb attack seemingly timed to attack police and emergency services in Northern Ireland, officers and a lawmaker said Saturday.

Police said a device exploded close to a school in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, about 22 miles (35km) west of Belfast, injuring two 12-year-old children and a two-year old who were struck by flying debris.

At the time of the blast, police had been evacuating homes in the area following reports of a separate device. Army specialists are checking two other suspicious objects in same area, police said.

Lawmaker Dolores Kelly, of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said the blast was likely designed by dissidents to target police.

"This was a despicable attempt to draw police in and then set off a bomb precisely where they would have been trying to keep other people back out of danger, and that is why the children were injured by debris from the explosion," Kelly said.

Earlier this month, Irish Republican Army dissidents planted a fake car bomb outside a police station, and in a separate incident a car bomb in Northern Ireland's second-largest city of Londonderry exploded outside a police station, causing minor damage and injuring nobody.

Last week, a British Army major found an unexploded booby-trap bomb under his car outside his home.

Dissident Irish Republican groups have carried out a series of recent bomb attacks in Northern Ireland, but have rarely been successful in killing or injuring their targets. They are opposed to the Northern Ireland's peace process, and the Catholic-Protestant government — the central achievement of a U.S.-brokered 1998 peace accord.

"People are absolutely furious and no wonder. We need more firm political leadership and better intelligence methods to cope with this threat," Kelly said.