Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Dissidents blamed for attack on officer's home

An off-duty police officer was forced to fire his weapon to protect himself during a failed attack on his home by suspected terrorists.

Dissident republicans are believed to be behind the bid to kill the officer in his home in Omagh on Friday night.

Army technical officers were called to the scene and discovered a “crude, viable explosive device” after the officer discharged his personal protection weapon.

The bombers managed to escape and no-one was injured.

As is usual in these circumstances, the Police Ombudsman has been informed.

It is the latest worrying development regarding the personal security of police and prison officers here. The attack comes after the murder of David Black, who was gunned down as he drove to work on November 1.

Detectives investigating this weekend’s attack carried out door-to-door enquiries in the Coolnagard area yesterday and appealed for anyone who has seen any suspicious activity in recent months to come forward.

Thomas Buchanan, DUP MLA for West Tyrone, said: “Not only does this show a complete disregard for the police officer and his family but it also put at risk the lives of everyone living in the area.

“This attack shows these people are becoming more bold. Investigations are ongoing at this time but it certainly does point towards the fact that dissident republicans are responsible. My thoughts are with the police officer and his family at what must be an extremely difficult time.”

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland has also condemned what it described as a cowardly attack.

West Tyrone Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey, who sits on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said it was a sinister reminder of Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Mr Hussey said: “We won't let morons drag us back to the past. Once again, we should also acknowledge the work of the security forces including the PSNI and Army Bomb Disposal team who responded promptly in the aftermath to seal off the area, evacuate residents and deal with the device.”

The incident happened less than a mile away from the street where PSNI officer Ronan Kerr was killed by dissident republicans. The 25-year-old was killed when the terrorists detonated an undercar booby trap device as he drove to work.

Last week, Chief Constable Matt Baggott warned a Parliamentary committee he needs more officers to deal with an escalation in the challenges facing policing in Northern Ireland.

Mr Baggott said that after eight weeks of flag protests and disorder, on the back of a violent summer and autumn over contentious parades, and with the severe terrorist threat from dissident republicans, he was concerned “about the long-term resilience of the organisation”.

Giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, he said the PSNI is only 7,000 strong, compared to 15,000 with military back-up a decade ago.

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