Belfast Telegraph

Police under fire for response as suspect device sparks alert

By Patrice Dougan

A major security alert was continuing last night in the Co Fermanagh countryside.

The Dernawilt Road, from Roslea to Donagh, was closed yesterday afternoon after a gas cylinder with wires protruding from the top was spotted on a grass verge earlier in the day.

Concerns have been raised that it took police over seven hours to close the road to traffic.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned that a council worker collecting litter was able to walk right up to the object almost an hour-and-a-half after it had been reported.

The PSNI received a report of the object shortly after 8am, but despite warning those living nearby of the investigation, the road was not closed until after 3.30pm.

People continued to drive down the road, ignoring the diversions, as there was no police presence at the scene.

Last night a PSNI spokeswoman said investigations were being carried out from afar, with helicopters scouting the scene for further suspect objects.

It is understood police were concerned the cylinder was a ploy to lure officers into the area, where a further device, hidden in bushes, could then have exploded.

Local DUP councillor Paul Robinson said: “It should have been closed. If there is a suspicious device it should have been closed and dealt with from there, but the police have their own way of dealing with it. They are the experts, they are the security.”

Ulster Unionist councillor Harold Andrews lives just 150 yards away from where the suspect object was found.

He was only informed about the possible danger when a council worker collecting litter called at his house having spotted it just yards away from the lane leading up to the councillor’s home.

“The first thing I did was phone the PSNI about it, and they said that in fact they had got the information already,” he said.

Mr Andrews said he believed it was a lure for the security forces, and that he was not the intended target.

“I can understand the police reasons for not rushing in because to the visual eye it sticks out, and I can’t see that if it was a real bomb it would be so visible. It’s very possible there would be something convenient to it hidden behind the hedge, or that sort of thing.”

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said officers were “continuing to investigate” the gas cylinder.

She said police had immediately begun an operation and contacted residents to make them aware of what was happening.

“At this point we would advise that this operation may take some time,” she said.

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