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Strabane under siege after 30 terrorist attacks in a year

By Donna Deeney

Published 07/10/2015

Superintendent Mark McEwan
Superintendent Mark McEwan

Dissident republicans carried out 30 bomb and gun attacks in Strabane in a year, the PSNI said.

There were 15 bomb attacks in the 12 months to August, seven of which targeted police directly.

The others were aimed at members of the public.

Republican terrorists were also responsible for 15 so-called punishment shootings, six of which maimed their victims for life.

Superintendent Mark McEwan said that while the threat from dissidents remained severe, with the help of the community his officers could put those responsible behind bars.

He said: "We have also witnessed a number of hoax devices designed to disrupt community life, to terrorise people and to draw police officers into situations where they could be attacked.

"It is important to note some of the latest incidents we have had in Strabane. The most recent was the discovery of the component parts of a pipe bomb.

"All the component parts were there, it could quickly have been made active and the people who have in their control this type of device are clearly intent on causing harm or serious injury to members of our community. I am delighted to be able to say we have taken this and other type devices off the streets."

Recent attacks in the Co Tyrone town caused severe disruption as families fled from their homes. Motorists faced long waits in traffic jams or added miles to their journeys in lengthy diversions.

He said this level of disruption was regrettable but that every precaution must be taken, adding: "Recently we had the discovery of a firearm-type in the Ballycolman area of Strabane.

"Our initial assessment of that was that it was a fully-functioning firearm, but subsequent forensic examination has revealed that it was a replica.

"The look, weight and feel of many replicas is very close to a real firearm. I have no doubt that these type of items are used to cause terror in our community. It also has to be recognised that they are used to draw police officers into situations where they can be subjected to secondary-type attacks.

"For these reasons we have to approach these incidents with the caution and care as if it was a real firearm until we understand what we are dealing with.

"There is a certain amount of disruption but it is incumbent on us, when we are doing this, to keep all in the community safe, including our own officers."

He added: "I want to appeal to the wider community to come forward with any information that they may have about these types of activities to enable us to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"I also want to ask is this the type of activity that people within our community want?

"I do not believe it is. The vast majority of people in this district have come out and condemned these attacks.

"Because of that I am appealing for information to help us keep the community safe."

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