Northern Ireland news

Bomb 'intended to create fireball' planted beside police officer's car with child's seat inside

 PSNI vehicles block a road during a security operation which has been ongoing since yesterday on the Ballyquin Road near Dungiven after a viable explosive device was found close to the home of a female PSNI officer

Terrorists planted a viable explosive device at the rear of a police officer's car where her three-year-old daughter sits, Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan has said.

He said the woman was targeted at her Co Derry home because she is a member of police staff and a part-time police officer.

"Yesterday morning, our colleague discovered a suspicious object beside her car in close proximity to her house on Ballyquin Road in Dungiven," Mr McEwan said.

"We assessed this was a viable device with explosives attached to a container with flammable liquid.

"This was designed to cause a fireball which would have engulfed the victim's car and anyone in it, or anyone close by or anyone calling to the house or anyone in the proximity.

"What is really distressing here is that the terrorists placed the bomb at the rear of the car, directly at the point where the victim's three-year-old daughter sits.

"This demonstrates the complete and utter disregard for the life of a mother and her toddler. This simply beggars belief."

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said "a strong line of inquiry" is that the New IRA is to blame for the attempted murder.

The New IRA is one of the most active dissident republican terrorist groups in Northern Ireland. It was blamed for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee during disorder in Derry in 2019.

Formed in 2012, the group has also been blamed for detonating a large car bomb outside the court house in Derry in January 2019, as well as sending parcel bombs to addresses in Britain in March of the same year.

"On several occasions before we have seen this group's utter disregard for those working for local people in our community.

"If we think back to the bomb attack outside the Derry courthouse in 2019, a group of young people narrowly escaping being caught up in the blast.

"While the rest of the country was pausing to remember, almost to the day, two years ago, this group of wicked individuals murdered Lyra McKee in Creggan.

"It is clear they are still intent in recklessly targeting honest, hard-working members of our community and they have no regard for those they kill or harm in the process.

"I appeal to anyone who has any knowledge of this attack, or indeed of anyone involved in violent terrorist activity, to come forward and provide that information to police."

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said the child was at the house when the explosive device was discovered.

The device, which was placed beside the car, was designed to create a fireball, the police chief said.

He said the child's seat was in the car and the terrorist group would have been aware of it.

"This is a group who are intent on targeting police officers, they have a total disregard for other members of the community and who they hurt or harm in the course of achieving that objective," Mr McEwan added.

He said these types of terrorist groups seek to drag Northern Ireland back to the "dark days".

"We will be unrelenting in our efforts in bringing these people to justice," he added.

"We believe this group would have known this is where the daughter would sit and they have shown no regard for this whatsoever.

"They know the effect if this device donated, it would have engulfed the car completely and those in it.

"It's time for people to examine their conscience. Is this the sort of group they want to support? A group that has shown complete disregard for young people and now we have another callous attack where a mother and a toddler were the potential victims."

The attack has been condemned by politicians including all the main party leaders plus the secretary of state.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has condemned those responsible for planting the explosive device at the officer's car.

He tweeted: "Deeply reprehensible and cowardly attack on the home of a police officer in Northern Ireland last night.

"Politicians across this island must work together to avoid a return to the dark days of fear and terror."

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne tweeted: "I strongly condemn this outrageous attack on our officer and her family.

"Every day PoliceServiceNI officers and staff bravely step up to serve the community and this attempt to harm is a stark reminder of the challenges still facing us all."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has described the bomb attack on a PSNI officer as "absolutely deplorable, unacceptable, unjustified and completely wrong".

Speaking to media at Stormont, Ms O'Neill said people must "stand together to condemn it".

"I have spoken with the chief constable, I have also spoken with the officer herself to offer my support and solidarity at this difficult time," she said.

"I think it is fair to say in speaking to her that there is still a fair degree of shock. It is only sinking in, the magnitude of what could have happened to both herself and her young family, and that is totally unacceptable and we have to call it out. It is wrong.

"That was the message I wanted to give to the chief constable, but also to those people that are responsible, they need to leave the stage, there is no room for you in society, you are not going to drag people back. What we need to see today is strong condemnation from everybody which, I believe, is the case.

"My thoughts are very much with the female officer who is still dealing with the shock and the magnitude of what could have happened to her and her young family."

First Minister Arlene Foster said: "I stand, as does my entire party, with the brave woman targeted by republicans and utterly condemn those who have sought to harm her and her family.

"I do give thanks that she has survived this dreadful murder attempt and when I spoke to this lady earlier, I gave her my prayerful support and indeed solidarity at this difficult time.

"To the republicans who sought to murder this young mother, your campaign is futile, you will never succeed and whilst there may always be different political views in Northern Ireland, we will keep moving forward and we will not be dragged back by bombers or those who would seek to use the gun to get their own political way."

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