Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Threat from dissidents is severe, PSNI chief warns

The PSNI’S acting chief constable has branded the dissident republicans who targeted the family of a serving police officer as “absolutely disgraceful”.

Judith Gillespie said that police need extra powers to keep the public safe in the face of a rising threat from dissidents which she said remained “severe”.

Last Tuesday, a 600lb bomb was defused at Forkhill in south Armagh, while relatives of a police officer in Londonderry were also targeted in separate attacks on Friday.

“We don't say that lightly — it is a severe threat to police officers,” Mrs Gillespie said yesterday.

“If you look, for example, at what happened in Derry in the last couple of days, when a police officer from the area serving the community and their family was targeted, it was absolutely disgraceful.”

Mrs Gillespie said phone calls from people in the south Armagh area had helped locate the huge device — which was bigger than the bomb which devastated Omagh.

The device, packed with 600lb of home-made explosives, was found near Forkhill and was attached to a command wire stretching across the border into the Republic.

Mrs Gillespie added that police needed their extra powers to help keep the public safe.

Oglaigh na hEireann, a small republican splinter group, claimed responsibility for the bomb.

The PSNI said those who planted the device — which they said would have caused “terrible carnage” had it exploded — had been targeting police officers.

Yesterday, security sources revealed that the bomb may have been intended to explode on August 31 — the final day of Sir Hugh Orde’s tenure as Chief Constable.

They also believe the bombers were responsible for an armed robbery, which was carried out as a “come-on” to lure police to the Forkhill area before detonating the device.

However a police helicopter tasked in response to the robbery on August 31 is believed to have spooked the bombers, and they fled before triggering an explosion.

Police also believe bomb attacks at the homes of a PSNI officer's parents and sister in Derry on Friday morning were the work of the Real IRA.

The group has been blamed for a series of attacks on PSNI officers in recent years, including the attempted murders of officers in Derry, Dungannon and Spamount in Co Tyrone.

They also claimed responsibility for a third incident on Friday morning when a man was shot in a punishment-style attack in Ballymagroarty in Derry.

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