Roadside bomb was ‘designed to kill’ officers

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Roadside bomb was ‘designed to kill’ officers thumbnailA police cordon in place at Townsend Street.

A SENIOR police officer has defended the PSNI's handling of a three-day security alert in the town.

A device exploded when a police patrol came under attack on Tuesday night. It has since been confirmed it was a roadside bomb with a command wire and was designed to kill police.

Dissident republican grouping the 'IRA' is understood to have claimed responsibility for the attack which the PSNI says it is treating as the attempted murder of officers.

A series of house raids have been conducted in the days since the bombing. Two men, a 20-year-old and 31-year-old, were arrested in connection with the incident and at the time of going to press yesterday afternoon (Tuesday), they were still being held by detectives from the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch.

The alert began shortly after 11pm on Tuesday night when Townsend Street and the nearby Liskey Road - a main throughfare through Strabane - were placed in lockdown until Friday afternoon when the cordons eventually came down.

Questions have been asked by frustrated residents of the police's initial response to the alert and why it went on so long. It's understood the device exploded shortly after 8pm but police were not on the scene until three hours later.

Locals - many of them elderly - have said they felt they were "under house arrest" as access was severely restricted to their homes. Chief Inspector Ivor Morton said the extensive police operation was necessary given the complexity of the alert.

He said: "The security operation caused significant disruption to the people of the area but was necessary to allow for a careful examination of the scene in order to keep people safe.

"This was a complex security operation involving what can only be described as a roadside bomb with a command wire attached. This device was designed to kill or seriously injure officers serving the local community in Strabane but it was also left in a built up area where it could quite easily have killed or maimed members of the public - showing a callous disregard for the safety of the local community."

The police chief said it was "extremely fortunate" police or members of the public were not killed or injured adding: "The blame for this incident lies squarely on the reckless individuals who placed this device. The overwhelming majority of people in the community do not want this type of activity and we as a police service will continue to work to bring those responsible before the courts."

Sinn Féin said it met with senior PSNI officers on Friday to discuss the extensive police operation with local MLA., Michaela Boyle, saying those behind the explosion "need to explain to the local community what it is they hope to achieve by such actions".

"There is no rationale for this attack. Luckily no one was killed or injured but the actions of whoever was involved brought severe distress and disruption upon the local community in the Head of the Town and in particular upon the adjoining residents of Townsend Street and Terrace. Their ordeal was substantially compounded by being basically subject to house arrest for three consecutive days," she said.

The Strabane politician said she and colleague, councillor Karina Carlin, had relayed the concerns of residents who felt "under siege" to the PSNI during the meeting.

"Councillor Karina Carlin and I met and held frank discussions with the PSNI about the 'over the top' nature of this follow up operation as well as a range of concerns and complaints we received from local residents about the conduct of officers towards them during this operation.

"These have been put firmly on record and the PSNI said that they would take on board all the concerns raised by us and have admitted there are many lessons to be learned from this.

"I would like to particularly thank local councillors and community activists who worked tirelessly to ensure as best they could that local residents were okay and their rights were upheld throughout the week. However, the bottom line is that our community should not be held hostage by anyone. Not by the police and not by those who stage these incidents," she added.



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