Searches in Derry after Strabane bomb left dangerously close to family home
MORE than 80 police and army bomb disposal experts were involved in searches of the Creggan area of Derry yesterday following an attempted mortar attack in Co Tyrone at the weekend.
The mortar was found by a member of the public on Saturday close to homes in Strabane.
Police believe dissident republican group the 'New IRA' intended to launch an attack on a nearby police station.
It was also responsible for planting a bomb under the car of a police officer in east Belfast in July and the murder of Lyra McKee in Derry in April.
Dissident republicans have also mounted bomb attacks this year in Castlewellan, Co Down, Craigavon in Co Armagh, and Wattle Bridge in Co Fermanagh.
Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said police are concerned at the frequency of attacks, warning that "it presents us with real challenges in terms of delivering a policing service."
The senior officer said he was "astounded" at the recklessness of the planned attack in Strabane.
"It could have overshot into a domestic home; my view and my assessment is that it was set there, it was sitting there, overnight for approximately eight to nine hours in this very vulnerable position.
"I have no doubt it was designed to kill and harm, not just police officers but the community."
In a follow-up operation more than 80 officers, explosive detection dogs and army bomb disposal experts were engaged in a searches in the Creggan estate in Derry and a nearby park yesterday.
A suspicious object was located in Creggan Heights and homes evacuated while the item was examined.
Creggan Country Park remained closed to the public for the day while intelligence-led searches took place.
Supt McCalmont claimed the New IRA was "concealing bomb-making materials" in the area.
"We have a small group of individuals absolutely intent upon inflicting harm on our community.
"They are living in our community, small numbers, and not allowing our community to develop and move on," he said.
A mother-of-two living close to where the Strabane bomb was discovered said her children were now terrified.
Aileen Mullan said her teenage daughter has not returned home since the mortar was found and her son is afraid to play outside.
She told the BBC: "My daughter is 14 and my son is seven, my son could have easily walked out the front door and lifted it, quite easily went out and lifted it and he would have been gone."
She said when her son heard there was a bomb he "was screaming the house down".
"He won't go around the front of the house in case there is a bomb."
Pictures released by police show the bomb metres away from the front door of a house at Church View in the town.
Sandra Duffy, chair of the Derry and Strabane Policing and Community Safety Partnership, said those who left the mortar "have absolutely no concern for people living in the area".
"My thoughts are with the residents and families living in the Church View area who have, no doubt, been traumatised by these events.
"I would urge anyone with information on this incident to contact the PSNI or Crimestoppers immediately," she added.
Junior McDaid House, which is home to the Derry branch of Saoradh - a political group supported by New IRA prisoners - posted on Facebook "Once again British crown forces target the Creggan community."
It added: "Those who support British crown forces are culpable for this continued onslaught."