Northern Ireland news

Dissident republicans blamed for Fermanagh bomb attack

Bomb disposal officers had been in the Newtownbutler area at the weekend responding to reports that a device had been left there
Maeve Connolly and PA

Dissident republicans are being blamed for a bomb attack in Co Fermanagh.

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said a bomb had exploded at 10.35am today on the main A3 Cavan Road at its junction with Wattlebridge Road, close to Newtownbutler.

The senior officer said he was "of the firm belief" that a hoax device left in the area at the weekend had been "a deliberate attempt to lure police and ATO colleagues into the area to murder them" and pointed the finger at the Continuity IRA or New IRA.

British Army bomb disposal experts and police officers were at the scene this morning when the device exploded. They had been following up on reports received two days ago that a bomb had been left in the area. It was found to be a hoax.

DCC Martin said the terrorist threat "has not decreased and has remained at severe since 2009".

"Today we have seen another example of the intent dissident republicans have as they attempted to murder police officers and army personnel in Co Fermanagh.

"They are reckless and indiscriminate, and this morning's attack had the potential to kill anyone in the immediate vicinity."

Earlier he said that police had initially been told a device had been left on the Wattlebridge Road, however, the explosion occurred on the main A3 Cavan Road.

DCC Martin said the investigation is likely to examine whether either the Continuity IRA or the New IRA were behind the attack.

"We are of the belief this attack has been carried out by dissident republican groupings, the two who have been most active this year in Northern Ireland have been the Continuity IRA and the New IRA, and I think one of those groups would be a very good starting point for the investigation," he told a press conference at PSNI headquarters in Belfast this afternoon.

"The Continuity IRA have been present for a long time, but I think it is fair to say their level of activity has increased this year."

Asked about the size of the device and how many officers were nearby, DCC Martin declined to be specific.

"It is very early in the investigation, we have located what we believe to be the seat of the explosion," he said.

"We are certainly of a view that if a person had been standing convenient to it, they would have been very badly injured or possibly killed.

"As to the make-up of the device and the specifics of how close police officers and other personnel were, those are matters we need to either reserve at the moment, or complete further inquiries in relation to."

Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew condemned the bomb and urged anyone with information to contact police.

"Those responsible for this incident have nothing to offer society and need to end these actions immediately."

SDLP Fermanagh councillor Adam Gannon "murdering or maiming police officers achieves no goals and it is a crime that has no support in Fermanagh".

"No one here wants to see members of our community killed in their name. Those responsible are criminals threatening our community and they have to be caught."

UUP Fermanagh and South Tyrone assembly member Rosemary Barton said her thoughts were with the police officers and soldiers "who thankfully escaped injury in this cowardly attack".

Alliance Policing Board member John Blair said "people want to get on with their lives and leave these dark echoes of the past behind". 

"I strongly condemn the cowardly actions of those responsible for this bomb attack, which could have had devastating consequences.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the device "was intended to inflict maximum harm".

"There is never any justification to use violence to achieve political aims. The people of Ireland, north and south, had their say on this issue when they voted overwhelmingly and emphatically for the Good Friday Agreement," he added.

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