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Pipe bomb attack was ‘attempted murder’ - Police

Thursday, 10 August 2017

POLICE have confirmed they are treating a pipe bomb attack on a pensioner's home in Strabane as attempted murder.

The device was thrown through the bedroom window of the house in the Melmount Villas area on Sunday night. It landed on the bed of a 65-year-old woman before being removed by a man and thrown into a nearby grass area.

Police weren't alerted to the incident until just before 9pm on Monday night. They say they believe dissident republicans are responsible for the "reckless attack".

The incident sparked an overnight security alert which lasted until yesterday morning (Tuesday). Cordons were thrown up at the entrance to an area known locally as the 'flat pad' or 'plot pad' which runs behind the local health centre as police dealt with the alert.

Ammunition Technical Officers (ATO) were tasked to the scene and recovered the item. It has been taken away for further examination but a senior police officer said that it is 'viable'. One home - the targeted property - was evacuated and no-one was injured.

PSNI Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said those responsible had no regard for the local community. Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, he said: "On Sunday at around 9.50pm, a bomb was thrown through the window of a house in Melmount Villas. This was a pipe bomb, a viable device thrown through the window of a pensioner's bungalow. At the time, there was a 65-year-old lady laying in bed when the bomb landed on her bed.

"Today we are thankful to God that we aren't dealing with fatalities. This is a despicable act, a terrible act by people who have no regard for our community. We have launched an attempted murder investigation of a member of our community. I appeal to the community to help us. We know that the vast majority of people in society do not want to see this sort of activity taking place."

He said those behind the attack had "stooped to new lows" adding: "This area is one that is predominantly vulnerable, elderly people. I'm sure people can understand the shock in this community and the anguish that this family have gone through.

"There are people in society who know who carried out this attack. I appeal to those people to help us catch them and hold them accountable. We will be doing all that we can to do that. There can be no justification whatsoever for a bomb being thrown through anyone's window let alone a vulnerable, elderly lady's house.

"I will point the finger firmly and squarely at violent dissident republicans. There are people of all shades who will condemn this act.

"This is a very small minority of people in our society who have carried out this attack. I feel for the lady today as she thinks through what could have happened. It was an absolutely terrifying incident for her. She is deeply shocked."

Local Sinn Féin MLA., Michaela Boyle condemned those responsible. She said: "That this device was initially thrown through a window and landed on the bed of a 65-year-old woman as she lay on her bed illustrates just how reckless this attack was and it is just by sheer luck that we are not facing a terrible tragedy.

"This attack has caused trauma to the family targeted and has caused further upset and disruption to neighbours, many of whom are elderly and infirm, in Melmount Villas and nearby streets. In the wider context, attacks such as these do nothing for the image of Strabane. Once again Strabane is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. This was a despicable attack and the last thing the people of Strabane want.

"Whoever is behind this alert needs to realise they do not represent the people of Strabane and stop these futile actions immediately."

Also speaking after visiting the scene was SDLP MLA., Daniel McCrossan, who described the actions of the perpetrators as "reckless and cowardly."

He said: "The area in which this device was planted has a large number of vulnerable and elderly residents, who have lived in there for their entire lives. An attack of this nature not only causes disruption but fear.

"This device smashed through a bedroom window into a residence and lay outside undisturbed for 24 hours after. This posed a very real risk not only for the residents of the property but for the entire community. This actions are reckless and cowardly.

"The people of Strabane will rightly be angry but I urge all members of the community to come together to condemn this attack Those responsible for this attack must be brought to justice, their actions have no place in our community."

Alliance West Tyrone representative, Stephen Donnelly, added: "Someone could have easily been seriously injured or killed by this incident. Despicable acts like these have no place in our society. This is now twice in the past month there have been incidents involving viable devices in Strabane and local people are sick of it. If anyone has any information on those behind this, I would urge them to contact the police immediately."

Detectives investigating the incident are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity in the area to come forward.

"I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the area to contact detectives at Strand Road Criminal Investigation Branch by calling 101 and quoting reference 1314 07/08/17 or, if they wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111," Chief Inspector Hutton said.

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