Northern Ireland news

CIRA claim gun attack on police helicopter in Fermanagh

Police at Wattlebridge in 2019 after a CIRA bomb attack

DISSIDENT republicans have claimed they opened fire on a police helicopter in Co Fermanagh.

Using a recognised codeword, the Continuity IRA claimed it fired at least nine rounds from a semi-automatic rifle at the PSNI helicopter at Wattlebridge, close to the Co Cavan border.

Police last night denied suggestions that an aircraft was forced to take evasive action but said "if there was any truth in the claims" the actions had to be condemned.

The CIRA - which has been behind a series of attacks at the Fermanagh border in recent years - is thought to have attempted to lure officers into the area with a hoax bomb alert.

Cautious to the threat, following a bomb a similar attack in 2019, the PSNI helicopter was dispatched.

The organisation, which claims to have recently acquired weaponry from a former Provisional IRA arms dump, said in a statement it was claiming responsibility "for an attack on a PSNI helicopter at around 11am on Thursday".

"A hoax device had been placed to lure PSNI into the area for a planned gun attack, they failed to arrive but a helicopter flying low to inspect the area was fired upon.

"The pilot carried out an emergency manoeuvre and left ... Nine shots were fired at the helicopter from a high powered semi automatic rifle at the Drumcrin Road, Wattlebridge junction."

It also threatened further attacks in the border area in future.

In August 2019, the CIRA claimed an attack on PSNI and army officers near the Wattlebridge Road.

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew said the most recent attack was a "futile and pathetic attack by this group on our community".

Fermanagh and Omagh District Commander Superintendent Alywin Barton said: “I can confirm that no police aircraft, deployed in the area, was required to take evasive action and that, to date, we have received no reports of shots being heard or fired in the area. I can also confirm that no police aircraft sustained any damage.

“If there is any truth to this claim then the criminals behind it have shown nothing but a reckless disregard for the community in Fermanagh. I unequivocally condemn the actions of those who attempt to damage our communities with their criminal actions and claims and seek to disrupt policing and the daily lives of law abiding citizens.

“We have been working closely with the local community during our investigation and our enquiries will continue."

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