Strabane pensioners flee bomb placed in graveyard
Pensioners in their 80s were forced to leave their homes in the middle of the night after a mortar-type device was left in a graveyard near their home.
Those behind the explosive device that sparked a major security alert in Strabane, Co Tyrone, on Saturday have been described as fascists by a local Assembly member.
Dissident republicans have been blamed after police received reports that a device had been left in the Townsend Street and Cemetery Road area. The search started in the early hours of Saturday, but the device wasn't found until the evening.
Residents have been allowed to return home after taking refuge in local church halls.
Police later confirmed they had discovered a mortar-type device.
PSNI District Commander Superintendent Mark McEwan thanked the public for their patience.
He said: "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 of all our community.
"I would continue to appeal to everyone, to work with us to reduce the threat that these people pose, and to keep people safe."
West Tyrone Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey condemned those who left the device as fascists.
"Once again the good people of Strabane have had their lives placed in danger and their daily routines disrupted by what can only be described as fascists," he said.
"I would like to commend the bravery and diligence shown by the security forces as they sought to locate the device and move people away from the Townsend Street and Cemetery Road area to places of safety.
"There is very little I can say about the mentality of people who would use the sanctity of a graveyard to attempt to murder police officers.
"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 80s, to leave their homes in the middle of the night and seek refuge in church halls or with friends and relatives.
"These so-called dissidents are simply despicable and the entire community must provide the police with unequivocal support so they can remove them from our midst and place them behind bars where they belong."
SDLP councillor Patsy Kelly said: "People use that graveyard every day of the week, anybody could have come across that device and God knows what the consequences could have been.
"To leave this in an area like this is despicable."
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.