A police officer who was mown down by a lorry during a major Customs operation on the Irish border was in a critical condition in hospital last night.
The officer and a colleague were hit when they went to inspect a set of warehouse garages near the village of Meigh, south Armagh, just before 1pm yesterday. It is understood a lorry drove at speed out through the garage door, ploughing into both policemen.
The premises on the Low Road were about to be searched as part of a Revenue and Customs operation into illegal cigarette smuggling that resulted in the seizure of more than seven million cigarettes. The police officers were working in support of Customs staff at the time.
The critically-injured policeman was airlifted by helicopter to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and from there to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he underwent emergency surgery last night.
The second officer, whose injuries were not serious, was discharged earlier in the evening.
Police have arrested two men, aged 17 and 39, in connection with the incident.
PSNI Inspector Davy Beck commended the bravery and dedication of the officers involved.
“These officers were there doing their utmost to prevent and tackle crime but unfortunately those involved were prepared to kill them in order to make their escape,” he said.
It is understood that a cargo of smuggled cigarettes arrived from China in Dublin Port over the weekend.
It was then watched by customs officers in the Republic as it was brought to Dundalk.
Earlier on Tuesday, the container was taken across the border to the warehouses near Meigh.
Gardai said they had recovered the lorry at Dromad just across the border.
Justice Minister David Ford said his thoughts and prayers are with the injured police officers.
“This incident brings home the dangers that police officers face day and daily in serving all the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.
Sinn Féin MP for Newry Armagh Conor Murphy called for a full investigation into the operation.
“The incident, which has occurred following a multi-agency operation against smuggling, is to be condemned,” he said.