Northern Ireland

Major security underway after car hijacked by masked and armed men left at Omagh PSNI station

A security operation got underway in Omagh after armed and masked men ordered a motorist to take his car to the town's PSNI station. Picture by Jason McCartan
A security operation got underway in Omagh after armed and masked men ordered a motorist to take his car to the town's PSNI station. Picture by Jason McCartan

Armed and masked men ordered the driver of a car hijacked outside a Co Tyrone church to drive it to a PSNI station.

It is understood a suspicious object was placed in a silver-coloured Volkswagen Golf outside St Mary's Church in Drumragh, near Omagh, at around 10pm on Saturday.

The man was then forced to drive to Omagh PSNI station where the car was abandoned.

A number of people were evacuated from their homes during a follow up security alert.

Ammunition technical officers have since examined the object, which was taken away "and will be subject to further examination to establish its viability".

The latest alert in Tyrone comes less than three months after senior PSNI officer John Caldwell was shot and seriously injured in a New IRA gun attack at a sports complex on the outskirts of the town.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell

Mr Caldwell, who was seriously injured in the attack on February 22 has since been released from hospital.

It has been reported that St Mary's Church was sealed off on Sunday after a security operation was launched which resulted in Mass being cancelled.

Fr Eugene Hasson from St Mary's said it "shouldn't be going on at all" and was "very disruptive to people".

St Mary's Church, Drumragh
St Mary's Church, Drumragh

Independent councillor Josephine Deehan said  the incident was a "terrible shame".

"And for what purpose, it's so awful, it's a absolutely disgraceful that people are planning these things to disrupt people's lives and to create fear and tension," she said.

"The intent was to terrify, intimidate and create disruption and it probably isn't a coincidence that it happened on the weekend with the coronation."

"I'm sure it was a terrifying ordeal for those involved, it's something we don't want to see repeated and merits universal condemnation."

Sinn Féin MLA Nicola Brogan said: "There is no place for this type of activity and those responsible have only served to cause huge inconvenience for local families tonight." 

Alliance Party councillor Stephen Donnelly said the incident took place close to his home.

He said: "The thugs behind this incident are a danger to our community and must be urgently apprehended by the authorities, so I would urge anybody with any information to contact the police.

"Omagh refuses to bow to those who would have our lives ruled by fear.

"We never have and we never will."

DUP MLA Thomas Buchanan said: "My thoughts are with everyone involved but the motorist will never forget this for the rest of their days.

"It's a throwback to the days when the IRA used to force people to become human bombs when targeting police and army.

"It was wrong then and it's wrong today."

PSNI Inspector Will Brown condemned those behind the alert.

"The misguided and senseless actions of those responsible have caused disruption in the local community," he said.

“Our thoughts are with the driver, who was, understandably, badly shaken by the ordeal.”

"Investigations into the incident continue."

In November last year Arm na Poblachta (ANP) claimed responsibility for leaving a device in a hijacked car outside a PSNI station in the Waterside area of Derry.

The alert was raised after three masked men hijacked a driver at gunpoint in the Curryneirin area and ordered him to take the Ford Mondeo car to a PSNI station.

After initially declaring the alert an "elaborate hoax device, meant to look like a car bomb”, police later said an object recovered was "a viable explosive device”.

In February the group also claimed that a device found in the Waterside area of Derry last month was left by its members.

A major security alert was launched after masked and armed men unsuccessfully attempted to hijack a car in Hollymount Park on February 17.

The following day a suspicious device, which police described as viable, was discovered in the Corrody Road area of the city, near the grounds of Doire Trasna GAA club.