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Police take three hours to seal off scene of Strabane attack

PSNI closed off parts of Townsend Street in Strabane after an explosive device was thrown at a passing police patrol.

Sinn Féin has criticised police for waiting three hours to cordon off a street in Strabane where an explosive device was thrown at a passing police patrol.

The PSNI have said the small viable device thrown at officers in Townsend Street, was an "attempt to kill police".

Dissident republicans are suspected of throwing the device which exploded while three officers were on patrol close the Liskey Road area of the town on Tuesday evening. The officers travelling in a patrol car were unhurt but shaken and left the scene without stopping.

It was three hours before officers returned to the scene and sealed the street off from passing traffic.

Around five people were evacuated from their homes but later allowed to return after intervention from local Sinn Féin councillor Karina Carlin, who was on the scene within minutes of the explosion.

"I went down just after 8.30pm, there had been a very loud bang and local people say there was a cloud of smoke", Ms Carlin said.

"There were no police in the area at all and we walked up and down the road looking for anything suspicious, I could see no scorch marks or evidence of a bomb".

Ms Carlin said she stayed with residents for three hours and then left, but returned 15 minutes later after she received a call to say police were evacuating the street.

"When I went back down there were five people who had been evacuated, police told me there wouldn't be any substantive searches until the next day and with it being so late and such a cold night I was keen to get residents back in their homes, which we managed to do", she said.

"While there have been a few minor incidents in Strabane over the last few years there has been nothing like this.

"It was a shock for local people and I would also question why it took three hours to close off the road, a delay that could have placed people at risk", she added.

Superintendent Gordon McCalmont thanked the "patience of local residents" while the PSNI continued with their enquiries last night.

Police Federation of Northern Ireland Chairman, Mark Lindsay said the people who detonated the device near a police patrol "have nothing to offer".

"They are fixed firmly in the past with nothing to offer a community that is trying to build a better here and now and a more positive future.

"They peddle misery. They are a throwback to bad times. They oppress and brutalise people and deserve to be ostracised, caught, convicted and given tough prison sentences.

"On or off duty, officers are at high alert and that situation will remain the case for the foreseeable future," he added.

Secretary Of State James Brokenshire said the actions of those responsible "put all of our community in harms way and their murderous intent is not reflective of wider society's desire for peace".

Alliance Justice spokesperson Trevor Lunn MLA said: "This type of attack achieves nothing except putting police officers, who are trying to protect the local community, in danger and diverting vital resources from other areas that might need them".

DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said: "There must be a united and resolute stand from right across the political spectrum to such activities," he added.

And SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan also condemned the attack saying: "Such attacks on the PSNI have no place in a modern progressive society."

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