Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Suspect van is blasted apart by Army experts in Northern Ireland

Police officers watch the controlled explosion
Police officers watch the controlled explosion

This was the dramatic scene as a controlled explosion was carried out on a van at the centre of a long-running security alert which closed down a Co Tyrone village.

The explosion was carried out on the van around 7pm last night after the village of Clady on the Tyrone/Donegal border had been brought to a standstill as a massive security operation was mounted following reports of a 600lb bomb abandoned near a bridge.

Police have not yet commented on whether it was a viable device or a hoax in the van. Army experts were still examining the scene late last night.

Army Technical Officers had earlier sent a small robot towards the van to assess the risk.

Two men, aged 28 and 34, were arrested last night following a call to police claiming a device had been left in a Transit van just 20 metres from a key bridge that connects Co Tyrone to Co Donegal.

Clady was plunged into chaos as police officers and army moved in on the van which had been left in the area with its hazard lights flashing around 9pm on Wednesday night.

Residents hastily organised their own cordon before police arrived on the scene.

A PSNI spokeswoman confirmed the Army had carried out a controlled explosion on the van and said police and army remained on the scene last night as a precaution.

There was speculation last night that the alert was a hoax.

Independent Strabane councillor Gerard Foley, who lives in the village, said residents were furious at the disruption caused.

“All our lives have been turned completely upside down due to this stupidity,” he said.

“The community were put out for the whole day over the head of nothing.

“Residents could not go to the shops, the Post Office, to the chapel , anywhere yesterday. Businesses were also left frustrated.

“But I am glad the whole thing is over and the place is starting to return to normal and no damage has been caused.”

The alert effectively turned the village into a dead end; stopping cross-border commuters from getting to work and stopping transport lorries from travelling on to Belfast and Dublin.

It also brought back memories of times past that no one in the small village of around 420 residents wishes to return to.

Richard Doherty, owner of the Finn View Service Station, said: “It's the last thing you want — especially in the climate we are in now.

“This whole episode will have cost thousands of pounds in lost business.”

One resident, among a handful who had spent much of the afternoon waiting for the arrival of Army Technical Officers, said that pensioners in the village had been the hardest hit.

“There is only one shop in the village and for pensioners who have no means of transport, they've had to get a taxi, which costs £5 into Strabane and another £5 to get out,” he said.

“This is a quiet village, there's no painting on the kerbstones and such. We had a checkpoint by the bridge for over 30 years and we don't want this sort of thing here.

“Since the checkpoint has been taken down young people who left to live in Castlefinn and Strabane have been coming back, the village is coming back to life.

“This sort of thing is a novelty for the schoolchildren who don't know what it used to be like but we don't want a return to this sort of thing.”

Meanwhile, residents were evacuated from their homes in Limavady as another security alert took place yesterday.

Police said an object found in the Meadowvale Park area was not suspicious.

Last month a 600lb bomb was discovered abandoned close to several houses in Forkhill, Co Armagh and defused by army experts. It was bigger than the bomb which killed 29 people in Omagh in 1998.

In May the components of what police described as “a very large bomb” were found in a field near Roslea in Co Fermanagh.

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