Northern Ireland news

Wattle Bridge bomb could have had 'devastating consequences'

PSNI at the scene of a bomb at Wattle Bridge close to Newtownbutler on Monday morning.

A BOMB that exploded close to the border at Wattle Bridge in Co Fermanagh was almost identical to a device discovered in Craigavon last month.

Dissident republicans, thought to be linked to the Continuity IRA, lured police and Army bomb disposal officers to the scene of the explosion with a hoax call received by police on Saturday evening.

The area had been sealed off and an 'object' identified, however, as the search continued yesterday morning a secondary device exploded with officers standing close to the seat of the blast.

No one was injured in the blast at Wattle Bridge, which is close to Newtownbutler and just a few miles from the border with Co Cavan.

Last month, a similar booby trap bomb was left on the Tullygally Road in Craigavon, Co Armagh, as police attended a call-out from a member of the public.

Police said the call was a set-up to lure officers into the area. The attempted bombing was claimed by the CIRA.

In June, a serving police officer had a lucky escape when he found a booby trap bomb attached to the underside of his vehicle in a golf club car park in east Belfast, with the New IRA saying they were responsible.

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said it was a "deliberate attempt" to lure police and troops into the area to try to kill them.

Analysis: Militant republicanism thrives in political instability (premium)

"This attack was indiscriminate and reckless and, whilst there is no doubt in my mind that police responding to this call were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the explosion," he said.

"Those who made, transported and deployed this device should explain their actions to the people of Co Fermanagh and Northern Ireland.

"They bring nothing to society, they showed no regard when they entered a public road in a public space to create nothing other than inconvenience and disruption to the local community and attempted to murder public servants".

The bombers are thought to have had support from the South with An Garda Síochána assisting in the investigation.

Mr Martin also warned that ongoing political instability was contributing to the increased threat from dissident organisation, adding that the explosion "underlines the difficulty of policing around the border area"

"We've had two and a half years of no devolved institutions, we have unresolved issues around legacy and we saw an aspect of that play out in parading in Derry/Londonderry last weekend.

"We've had tensions on the ground in communities around bonfires, we have the uncertainty around the EU exit .. when you add all that up there is a time for reflection and a time to question what kind of society we want".

The incident was also widely condemned politically.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the bombers "do not represent the people of Fermanagh".

"I have been contacted by people from both sides of the border, from unionist and republican backgrounds, this act of terrorism is not in their name", she said.

"We need to demonstrate as a society that we will not be bowed or broken by the threat of violence. My father’s generation did not cede way to violence and for the sake of the next generation, we must not either".

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew said: "This morning's bomb attack in Wattle Bridge was totally wrong.

"Thankfully no one was injured in this incident but we could have been dealing with a situation where people were seriously injured or worse.

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

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, labelled the attack as the actions of "depraved and sick republican terrorists with nothing but misery to offer".

Secretary of State Julian Smith said he is "following developments closely".

Taoiseach Loe Varadkar condemned the "cowardly actions of those responsible", adding the explosion could have had "devastating consequences".

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