Dissident republicans blamed for Lurgan disorder 'no better than Daesh'
More than 100 petrol bombs were thrown in the serious sustained disorder
Dissident republicans believed to be behind serious disorder in Lurgan last night where police came under fire are "no better than Daesh terror group", a senior police officer has said.
The disorder has been linked to an ongoing security alert which has caused havoc for rail users as police probe a second bomb alert in 24 hours in Co Armagh.
On Sunday night officers came under sustained attack for a number of hours with more than 100 petrol bombs thrown at police cordons in the area of the Lake Street alert.
At one stage a gunman emerged from the crowd and fired at least one shot at police.
Twenty five paint bombs, bricks and other masonry were thrown by a large and aggressive crowd who gathered at around 9pm and remained until the early hours of the morning.
No police officers or members of the public were injured however a number of police vehicles were damaged.
Helicopter air support, specially trained riot police from other parts of Northern Ireland and dog teams had to be brought to deal with the trouble.
Speaking at a press conference Superintendent David Moore said: "The people that are behind this have no ideology, they have nothing to offer, in many respects they can be compared to Daesh, they have got little to offer but destruction in their own communities."
Daesh is a name for the terror group also known as Islamic State which is fighting for territory in Iraq and Syria.
"We are very lucky not only to be dealing with the loss of life or serious injury to a police officer but we could be dealing with any member of the community in the same position this morning."
Upper Bann MP David Simpson called the violence "absolutely disgraceful" and said the community was being "held to ransom" by dissidents.
Mr Moore said: "The work of dissident republicans is evident here, not in any way organised, because it is the easiest thing to drop something on a railway line and have someone drunk batter on the window of a crossing guard's booth.
"It is the easiest thing to make phone calls...to try their best to confuse the police response.
"Eventually we deployed in a very careful, tactically sound way and what did we find? Five hours of sustained violence waiting for us."
A number of homes were evacuated today as the alert continues.
The senior officer added: "A methodical clearance operation to dispose of the device will continue today and this is likely to cause disruption not only to rail travel in the area but also to the daily lives of people living close by.
"It will be necessary to evacuate a number of homes and we have already been in touch with most of the householders who will be affected by this operation.
"I am grateful for the cooperation and support of the broader community in Lurgan and I would ask that those who engaged in last night’s despicable disorder, seriously consider the consequences of their actions and the impact they are having not only on their community police officers but also on their community itself.”
Upper Bann MP David Simpson called the violence "absolutely disgraceful".
He said: "The kind of violence witnessed over the weekend was absolutely disgraceful, and for police to come under gunfire highlights just how serious this trouble was.
"It would seem clear that dissident republican terrorists are responsible for this trouble, particularly given the prolonged and orchestrated nature.
"Those who engage in terrorism and violence today are merely emulating those who attempted to use such failed tactics in the past. There can be little doubt that the continued glorification of past terrorism plays into the hands of those who hold the community to ransom today."
The Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, councillor Darryn Causby has said he is "completely aghast" at the overnight disorder.
He said: “I completely and utterly condemn the violence perpetrated last night towards the Police as they were trying to deal with a serious security alert at Lake Road.
" I am completely aghast at the blatant disregard these people have for our Police Service and it is extremely fortunate that we are not dealing with serious injuries or death today.
“I know this is not the will of the local people and it is disgraceful that a small minority are able to wreak such carnage on our town.
“There is no room in our progressive and peaceful society for attacks like this and I would encourage anyone who has any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, concerning the perpetrators to contact the local PSNI without delay. It is imperative that those responsible for this reckless behaviour are brought to justice.”
Local Councillor Carla Lockhart said: "The vast majority of people in Lurgan simply want to get on with their daily lives instead of facing such disruption and violence.
"It is vital that the police are assisted in their efforts to bring those responsible to justice. Anyone involved in firing gunshots at the police clearly has no regard for life or limb and were obviously intent on murder.
"We will continue discussions with the police to ensure they have the resources necessary to tackle this dissident threat."
Sinn Fein's Catherine Seeley condemned those who opened fire at the PSNI during disturbances in Lurgan and said it was "clearly an effort to murder police officers".
She said: "Those responsible for this attack and organising and co-ordinating this rioting and disruption nothing to offer the community.
"Local people and commuters are fed up with these incidents which serve absolutely no purpose except to disrupt lives and services.
"Recently this activity has disrupted people on their way to work, when preparing their children for school, local doctors’ services have been affected, as has Home Help and other medical services in the area.
"Those behind these attacks have no political vision or strategy.
"It is completely and utterly futile.
"It is important to point out that this does not reflect the views of the community of the north Lurgan area most of whom, I am sure, would strongly agree that those responsible should stop immediately and allow the community to live in peace.”
Update: The security alert in Lake Street has now ended. Two suspicious objects have been examined and both have been declared as hoaxes.
All evacuated residents are now able to return to their homes and the train line has reopened.