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It's a miracle no one was killed, say police probing bomb attack

By Allan Preston

It is "incredible" that no one was killed during an attempt to murder PSNI officers in Strabane, police said yesterday.

A device exploded in Townsend Street just after 8.30pm on Tuesday night while three officers were on patrol.

The PSNI arrived at the scene just after 11pm, with local residents questioning the delay.

But a police spokesperson said: "Given the current threat level, we have to be mindful of how we respond to certain situations, as evidenced by last night's attack.

"We continually review how we respond to these incidents to ensure we are protecting everyone in the community."

PSNI Chief Inspector Ivor Morton described the attack as "utter madness".

He also declined to be drawn on whether it was carried out because of the death of Martin McGuinness.

"I can't speculate on what was going through the minds of whoever decided to do this," Mr Morton said.

"What I can say is I have no idea what they thought they were going to achieve.

"It is incredibly lucky today that I am not talking about the death of police officers or members of the community when you consider where that incident happened and the time of night."

He added that the three officers remained in "good spirits".

Gina Devine, a local community worker, said last night that the community centre was open for residents affected by the incident.

"Some people who live in close proximity to where the device went off said that they did see smoke," she explained.

Sinn Fein councillor Karina Carlin, who heard the bang of the device on Tuesday night, visited the scene of the incident yesterday.

"My anxiety is to get this wrapped up so I can attend Martin McGuinness's wake this evening," she said.

"This does remind us of the value of the work he did for peace, and I think we're the poorer for not having him here."

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said the "murderous intent" of those responsible was "not reflective of wider society's desire for peace."

SDLP MLA and Policing Board member Daniel McCrossan was horrified by the incident.

"Such attacks on the PSNI have no place in a modern progressive society," he said.

Mr McCrossan stressed he believed the attack was planned long before Mr McGuinness's death.

"It stands out, but if you look at the context it's not something that's been thought of overnight," he added.

"It's clearly a very premeditated attack that's been planned and targeted for some weeks."

Sinn Fein MLA Michaela Boyle said the people behind the incident "have absolutely nothing to offer society and need to call a halt to these activities immediately."

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, also condemned the murder attempt as a "reckless and mindless act".

Chairman Mark Lindsay said: "The people who detonated an IED near a police patrol have nothing to offer... they peddle misery.

"They are a throwback to the bad times.

"They oppress and brutalise people and deserve to be ostracised, caught, convicted and given tough prison sentences."

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