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Dissident republicans behind mortar attack on police patrol

Seamus McKinney derry@irishnews.com

DISSIDENT republicans have been blamed for a mortar attack on an armoured police patrol in Derry.

A number of homes were evacuated in the Creggan yesterday afternoon as police conducted a follow-up security operation in the wake of Sunday night's bomb at Circular Road.

A police Land Rover and a car were badly damaged when the bomb went off around 8.40pm.

No-one was injured but police said officers could have been killed had they not been travelling in an armoured vehicle.

Sunday's bombing was the third major attack by dissident republicans in Derry over the weekend. On Saturday night, a man was shot 'by appointment' in both legs in the city's Ballymagroarty area while another man was shot in the legs in the Shantallow area on Sunday evening.

The bombing also followed two similar attacks on police by dissident republicans in the past three weeks. On October 13 a bomb was left at a vacant house in an attempt to ambush police in Ballyarnett in the city while on October 23, police were the intended target of an attempted bombing at Ballycolman in Strabane.

While officers are still examining Sunday's device, it is believed the mortar-type device was triggered by a command wire from a nearby garden.

The development, with the use of a pressure plate and command wire in the earlier attacks, marks a major change in the tactics used by dissident republicans.

Derry police chief, Steven Cargin said there was no doubt that Sunday's attack was an attempt to kill his officers.

Chief Superintendent Cargin said: "This was a substantial and a sophisticated device as can be seen from the damage to the armoured Land Rover and the damage that was caused to a civilian car.

"If this had not been an armoured vehicle, the officers would have been killed or seriously injured."

His fellow officer, Tony Callaghan said Sunday's bombing was a murderous attack.

"This was an absolutely reckless attack. It's a really built-up area; we have old people living in the area; we had a vehicle following the police vehicle which was damaged in this attack. It was not only an attack on police officers serving the community in Creggan and in the wider area of Londonderry but also an attack on the community itself," Chief Inspector Callaghan said.

SDLP MP Mark Durkan des- cribed Sunday's attacks as "callous and dangerous."

"They will not succeed. They have no regard for anyone except their own warped and violent egos," Mr Durkan said.

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said if those responsible continued with their "reckless" acts, it was only a matter of time before a member of the public was killed.

The attacks were also condemned by Ulster Unionist assembly member, Ross Hussey and Shantallow SDLP councillor Brian Tierney who said added that nothing could justify the "barbaric" shootings over the weekend.

* DAMAGE: Left, the back door of a police patrol vehicle that was badly damaged in a mortar bomb attack in Derry

* SCENE: A British army bomb disposal unit in Derry's Creggan Estate on Monday, where a pipe bomb exploded after being thrown at a police patrol car on Sunday night

PICTURE:

Margaret McLaughlin

? Editorial ? P18

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