Northern Ireland

'IRA' says it struck police vehicle with mortar bomb

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

THE republican paramilitary group known as the `IRA' last night claimed it was "confident" it struck a PSNI vehicle with a deadly EFP mortar in Strabane last week.

In a statement the organisation, sometimes referred to as the `New IRA', said it fired the potentially lethal device at the passing patrol car at Townsend Street last Tuesday night.

The group claims the EFP (explosively formed projectile) mortar contained Semtex and was triggered by command wire and fired from a distance of nine feet at the police vehicle as it passed at around 8pm.

The `IRA' claims that the mortar was moved from another location in the border town earlier on Tuesday after the security forces failed to show up.

Using a recognised codeword, the republican group also claimed that an attempt to target a police car with the same device at Townsend Street was abandoned an hour before the attack because of the presence of civilian vehicles in the area.

The PSNI has said that the device, which it described as a "roadside bomb with command wire attached" was "designed to kill or seriously injure" its officers.

Three officers who were travelling in the vehicle were uninjured but believed to be left shaken.

The PSNI vehicle left the area after the attack and police were later criticised for failing to cordon off the scene for three hours.

Several people were removed from their homes during a follow up operation but later allowed to return.

Politicians have condemned the latest attack which came just weeks after the `IRA' tried to kill a Catholic police officer in Derry using an undercar bomb.

Policing Board member and SDLP assembly member Daniel McCrossan said: "Such attacks on the PSNI have no place in a modern progressive society."

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

In August 2015, a mortar was discovered and disarmed at a cemetery in Strabane after a security operation.

EFPs, which can pierce armour over a long distance, have been used by the `IRA' in Derry and Belfast in the past. On those occasions no-one was injured.

Unexploded EFP's have also been recovered by the security forces across the north. Believed to have been developed in Iran, the homemade weapon was regularly used in Iraq.

It is considered by some as the modern version of the horizontal mortar - known to republicans as a 'doodle bug' - which was used by the Provisionals.

Meanwhile, police have been given additional time to question a 20-year-old man arrested in Newtownstewart in connection with the attack last week, while a 31-year-old man arrested on Saturday continued to be questioned last night.