Northern Ireland news

'No items recovered' in ongoing Fermanagh security alert

THE PSNI have denied that parts of the Fermanagh/Cavan border are a "no-go area" for officers on the ground.

Over a mile of the Wattlebridge Road was closed on both sides of the border for the fourth day in a row yesterday, following claims by the Continuity IRA that shots were fired at a police helicopter.

A bomb warning was initially issued on Wednesday January 13, but it was the following Tuesday before officers closed the road to conduct a search of the area.

The CIRA issued a statement claiming it had fired nine shots at a low-flying police helicopter, using a Russian Dragunov assault rifle, on Thursday January 14.

Police denied that a police helicopter was shot at, although a private helicopter was in the area.

The PSNI's South Area Commander, Chief Superintendent Andy Freeburn, said: “I can confirm that the police service helicopter was not deployed in the Wattlebridge area at any time on Thursday, 14th January.

"A fixed wing aircraft was deployed to conduct searches on this date. Following extensive enquiries we have established that a private helicopter was travelling through the area on Thursday."

On Sunday evening the CIRA claimed it had planted a hoax device to lure officers into the area, stating: "The hoax is still behind a bus shelter at the Cavan/Clones crossroads. The PSNI crown forces have yet to come back into the area since the helicopter attack, sending helicopters and planes to the area.

"If they were to go to the Drumcrin Road they will find the spent bullet casings from the attack on a layby."

The statement went on to give specific details of the location of the shooting and warned of further attacks.

Despite this the road remained open to the public until Tuesday when in a joint PSNI/ Garda Síochána operation, around a mile of the rural border route was closed to traffic.

A police spokesperson said last night: "The search operation in the Wattlebridge Road area is ongoing. At this point no items have been recovered."

Denying there were parts of the border that were deemed unsafe to police on foot, a spokesperson added: "There are no areas which are ‘too dangerous' to police.

"This is a complex and challenging operation and we have a duty to ensure that all safety and operational requirements are met.

"There is no doubt that this takes time but it is necessary."

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