Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was removed from the stage by officials during a speech in Belfast on Friday after the event organizer said a suspicious device was discovered in a hijacked van in the local parking lot.
The van driver was ordered at gunpoint to the scene in north Belfast, one of the organizers of the event told Reuters. Coveney drove away from the venue in his government car after leaving the stage, a Reuters witness at the scene said. The driver was in tears inside the venue after alerting security officials to the incident and apologizing to attendees for being forced into the venue, the Reuters witness said.
“There is a security alert and the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) are currently assessing the situation. Everyone has had to evacuate the centre,” Tim Attwood, secretary of the Hume Foundation, told Reuters. The UK on Tuesday lowered its terror threat level linked to Northern Ireland for the first time in more than a decade, with police saying operations against Irish nationalist militants made attacks less likely.
The PSNI said they were currently witnessing a security alert and motorists were advised to avoid the area.
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