London: The British government on Monday condemned a car bomb attack on intelligence headquarters in Northern Ireland minutes after full police and justice powers were devolved to the province.
British Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward said he believed dissidents of the formerly terrorist Irish Republican Army (IRA) were to blame for the attack.
Unconfirmed reports said one person was slightly injured in the attack.
"Today Northern Ireland will complete devolution with the transfer of policing and justice powers... That democratic transition stands in stark contrast to the activity of a criminal few who will not accept the will of the majority of people of Northern Ireland. They have no support anywhere," he said.
The blast hit Palace Barracks near Belfast, which is the headquarters of the British domestic intelligence service MI5 in the province.
A hijacked taxi was used to move the explosives to the army barracks where MI5 is located, a report said, quoting police sources. The taxi driver's family had been threatened, the reports said.
Security personnel were evacuating the area after a warning and some 40 residents were fleeing the scene at the time of the blast.
"The explosion occurred at approximately 12.24 am (2325 GMT Sunday) this morning," a police spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
At midnight, the British government handed over policing and justice powers to Stormont, a key part of the Good Friday Agreement, a landmark peace deal concluded 12 years ago.
The province's mostly Catholic republicans were locked for years in a conflict with the mainly Protestant Unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Later on Monday, lawmakers in Northern Ireland are to vote on appointing their own justice minister, the first in 38 years.
First Published: Monday, April 12, 2010, 16:26