A mortar bomb left on a roadside in Armagh has been blamed on “reckless” criminal dissidents intent on killing police officers.
District Commander chief superintendent Alasdair Robinson said the device was found on Wednesday night thanks to a member of the public who raised the alarm.
It is understood a warning call was made to the city’s parochial house. Police were alerted and closed the road, diverting traffic into the city yesterday.
The device was deactivated by Army Technical Officers yesterday morning. Chief Spt Robinson said: “I have no doubt the aim was to kill police officers engaged in providing a community service to the area.
“The actions of both our local police officers and of the Army Technical Officers are in stark contrast to that of the reckless criminal terrorists who abandoned this device close to private homes, placing the lives of those living in this area at risk.”
He called on the community to work with police. “Those who operate under various flags of convenience are simply terrorists and criminals who wish to drag everyone back to the dark days of the past by using violence as a so-called political tool.”
SDLP mayor of Armagh Thomas O'Hanlon said those responsible were putting their community at risk. “I don't know what their motivation was, but whatever their deluded intentions or motivation, they offer this community and this country nothing for the future.”
He said dissident republicans who claimed earlier devices in the area were believed to be behind the device.
The Policing Board also condemned the incident. Chairman Barry Gilligan said: “It was very fortunate that no-one was killed or seriously injured by this viable device and the people behind this reckless act had complete disregard for public safety.”
Sinn Fein councillor Cathy Rafferty said the alert had caused immense disruption. “I have no idea what these people are thinking, there is absolutely no logic in what they are doing.They are just disrupting their own people.”
People in four homes in the nationalist area close to Friary Road were evacuated yesterday morning while a controlled explosion was carried out. One couple and their child were among those affected. The child’s father said: “I heard a loud bang this morning but I thought it was just kids throwing fireworks but then I checked Teletext and saw what was happening.”
The residential area affected by yesterday’s scare shows other evidence of dissident activity. Green, white and orange lettering on a lamppost directly below St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral spells out ONH, a reference to Continuity IRA splinter group Oglaigh na hEireann.