Northern Ireland news

Continuity IRA behind bomb targeting police in Craigavon

An image released by the PSNI of the device in Craigavon

THE Continuity IRA is understood to have been responsible for a bomb targeting police in Craigavon.

The PSNI released images last night of what was described as a "deadly and unstable" booby-trap device designed to kill officers lured in by reports of a mortar attack.

Police said they were first called to the Tullygally Road of the town at around midnight on Friday following reports of a loud bang.

"A short time later a Belfast-based newspaper reported receiving a call claiming a mortar had been fired at police in the same area."

This claim, received by The Irish News, stated that a "horizontal mortar was fired at a passed police patrol" on the Tullygally Road beside Alderdale flats but had "missed its target".

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"So there is a live warhead in the vicinity," it warned.

Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said yesterday that that officers located a device close to a public bus stop near the Alderdale flats.

Army bomb squad members with an explosives sniffer dog clear the area in Craigavon

"Despite the initial report to the Tullygally Road our enquiries to date would lead us to believe a mortar was not fired and in fact the entire incident was staged in order to bring police into an area where another deadly and unstable device awaited," he said.

"Although the explosive was designed and set up to look like a fired mortar, it was in fact a booby-trap device.

"In other words it was designed to explode if moved or touched."

He said had it detonated as intended, the result "would undoubtedly have been catastrophic for anyone in the immediate vicinity".

"On Friday night this included people out socialising, teenagers and residents attempting to simply go about their daily lives.

"This attack was indiscriminate. Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that first responders were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the carnage.

"We are extremely fortunate that the swift actions of those officers who were first on scene meant that there was not serious injury or death.

"This incident also serves to emphasise how important it is that members of the public report to us anything suspicious they find or see, and that people do not touch suspect items no matter how innocuous they may seem."

Appealing for information, he added: "I would like to again thank the community for their patience and cooperation throughout the security operation as we sought to ensure their safety."

The alert saw around 20 people - including an 80-year-old - moved from their homes in the early hours.

The Continuity IRA, which has a presence in the Craigavon area, was last night thought to have been responsible.

In 2009 it murdered Constable Stephen Carroll after being lured to an ambush in Craigavon.

PSNI Officer Stephen Carroll who was shot dead in Craigavon

He was shot dead as he responded to a 999 call and was the first police officer to be killed since the formation of the PSNI.

In April this year, the organisation claimed it was forced to abandon a device near the site of a former school in Lurgan, although police later described it as a hoax.

Responding to the weekend attack, DUP assembly member Jonathan Buckley said the actions "of a few mindless individuals could have resulted in a scene of devastation".

"Their actions are totally reprehensible and there must be condemnation from all sections of the community towards this behaviour," he said.

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said the attack "was wrong and I condemn it utterly".

“Those responsible for this incident have nothing to offer the local community or society as a whole," he said.

“They need to end these futile actions immediately and let the community here live in peace.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie also described those responsible as "nothing more than self-promoting psychopaths who thrive on chaos and anarchy", while Alliance MLA John Blair called for "an actionable plan in place to tackle paramilitarism, ensuring those determined to cause carnage on our streets are removed as a threat and dealt with in an appropriate way”.

Meanwhile, Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay warned that the threat of being ambushed could delay response times to calls from the public as officers "of necessity will have to exercise even greater levels of caution"

"No one expects officers to leave themselves vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and that must mean the very real prospect of slower response times," he said.

He said politicians and community leaders needed to work with the PSNI to rid their communities of "thugs and criminals".

"For the sake of the vast number of decent people, they should up their game considerably."

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