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Mortar-type weapon found in Co Tyrone graveyard

Published 02/08/2015

Police evacuated a number of elderly residents after the weapon was discovered in Strabane
Police evacuated a number of elderly residents after the weapon was discovered in Strabane

Pensioners in their eighties were forced to leave their homes in the middle of the night after a mortar-type device was left in a nearby graveyard in Northern Ireland.

Police evacuated residents after the weapon was discovered in Strabane, Co Tyrone, on Saturday evening.

A senior Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer blamed those with an agenda of "violence and destruction" for the disruption.

Ulster Unionist Stormont Assembly member Ross Hussey said: "No doubt the people responsible would claim to be republicans fighting to 'liberate' Ireland.

"In reality they are a criminal gang of bully boys and fascists whose only achievement this weekend was to force local people, some in their eighties, to leave their homes in the middle of the night and seek refuge in church halls or with friends and relatives."

The police operation began in the early hours of Saturday after reports that a device had been left in the Townsend Street/Cemetery Road area.

A number of elderly people had to leave their homes and the graveyard was closed for most of the day. It was later confirmed as a mortar-type device, police said.

Supt Mark McEwan said: "We would like to thank the local people who have been inconvenienced by this operation for their patience and understanding and we are working to get them back into their homes as soon as possible.

"The blame for the disruption, however, rests with those individuals or groups who appear determined to pursue an agenda of violence and destruction which can only be to the detriment to all in our community.

"I would continue to appeal to everyone to work with us to reduce the threat these people pose and to keep people safe."

Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process have killed police officers, soldiers and a prison warder in recent years.

The chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, said those behind the alert were misguided.

"Such attempts at murder have never, and will never, progress any political objective.

"People want to get on with their lives without a threat to life or wholesale disruption to a community.

"Like the officers who dealt with this alert, residents want nothing more than a normal, peaceful society free from the tyranny that is the only thing those responsible for this thwarted attack have to offer."

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