Northern Ireland news

Attempt to recover bomb fragments in Catholic officer attack

Forensics officers at the scene of a bomb explosion at the home of a Catholic police officer in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

THE investigation into a dissident republican bomb attack on a Catholic police officer is being hampered because the device exploded prematurely, it has been claimed.

Officers investigating the attack in Derry on Wednesday have been unable to identify the exact composition of the bomb because it went off before a controlled explosion could be carried out.

Forensic officers yesterday carried out finger-tip searches at the officer's home in the Ardanlee area of Culmore in a bid to recover every fragment of the device.

The area remained closed off throughout most of yesterday but the alert ended last night, allowing people living near the bomb site to return to their homes.

Sources close to the investigation said experts were still trying to identify the composition of the device but were being delayed because it exploded as army bomb disposal officers started to deal with it. When a controlled explosion is carried out, army bomb experts can recover enough of the device to ascertain key facts such as the type of detonator used.

Following the attack, Derry area PSNI commander Gordon McCalmont said the device was more intricate than a basic pipe bomb.

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Harvey said last night the bomb was an "under vehicle improvised explosive device".

"These are designed to kill and seriously injure people so I want to be absolutely clear that this device would have had devastating consequences if it had exploded with our colleague and his family in the car," he said.

"The violent dissident republicans who carried out this attack intended to kill him. They didn’t care that his children or partner could also have been in the vehicle with him.

"He is not just a police officer in a uniform – he is also a father, a brother and a devoted family man who puts on his uniform every day to serve the local community that he is a part of.

"It was extremely lucky that no-one was hurt and reinforces the fact that this small group of people have no regard for the safety of the local community or indeed the wishes of the vast majority of local people who want to live in a safe and peaceful society."

He thanked everyone affected by the security alert for their patience.

Police believe the bomb may have fallen from the officer's car on Wednesday morning. It is understood the officer, along with his wife and child, were in the house shortly before the bomb was discovered.

It was also revealed yesterday that the officer targeted in the attack has been advised to move house immediately.

As the fall-out from the attack continued yesterday, SDLP MP Mark Durkan said the bomb would have repercussions throughout the north.

"To murderously target a policeman, threaten a neighbourhood and violate the chosen peace of Derry attacks the clear will of the Irish people," he said.

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Northern Ireland news