Irish Republican Army (IRA) diehards claimed responsibility yesterday for detonating a small bomb hidden in a backpack in the heart of Belfast's revived city centre.
The Friday night attack injured nobody, but highlighted the determination of truce-defying IRA members to disrupt economic and social life in the run-up to Christmas, the busiest time of the year for Northern Ireland's economy.
The blast displayed a level of recklessness not seen in previous bombing bids. Police said a coded warning to a Belfast media organisation misidentified the bomb's location as outside a hotel, not a restaurant.
Amateur footage showed the bomb detonate within 100 yards (90 metres) of cordoned-off pedestrians in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.
The district of cobblestoned streets was a ghost town during decades of full-fledged IRA violence and today is home to thriving pubs, nightclubs, boutique hotels and a trendy arts scene.
The security alert disrupted shows at the nearby Metropolitan Arts Venue and obliged some diners to take their plates with them to eat in the cold outside.
Most IRA members from the dominant faction, the Provisionals, ceased fire in 1997 and renounced violence in 2005 after killing nearly 1,800 people in a failed 27-year campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.
But breakaway IRA factions remain determined to mount sporadic attacks in defiance of the British territory's 1998 peace accord and the Catholic-Protestant government it inspired.