By Ian Graham
BELFAST (Reuters) - A prison officer who was seriously injured in a car bombing in Northern Ireland earlier this month that was claimed by militant nationalists has died, Northern Ireland's Prison Service said on Tuesday.
Adrian Ismay, 52, underwent surgery after the bomb went off shortly after he started driving away from his home in Belfast on March 4. He died in hospital on Tuesday morning, police said.
"Adrian Ismay gave over 28 years of service to prisons in Northern Ireland and he was greatly respected by all those who knew him," Northern Ireland Prison Service Director General Sue McAllister said in a statement.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by a militant group opposed to the 1998 peace deal that largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland between Protestants, who want to remain under British rule, and Catholics favoring unification with Ireland.
A 45-year-old man was charged on Saturday with the attempted murder of the father-of-three. Police said on Tuesday that they were working to establish the exact cause of his death.
Police have warned that there is a "severe" threat to security forces as the centenary approaches later this month of the 1916 anti-British Easter Rising, the most dramatic chapter of Ireland's independence struggle.
Security has been stepped up across the province. On Friday, a senior police officer said further attacks had been foiled since the car bomb.
The prison officer's death is the first fatal attack since 2012 when a prison officer was killed in a motorway shooting blamed on militant nationalists.
The recent attack was condemned by politicians on both sides of the historical divide.
"I'm devastated. Can't believe the news," Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster said on Twitter on Tuesday, adding that she had texted Ismay before leaving on a trade mission to the United States this week and that he had been doing well.
(Additional eporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)