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Tensions high as Army joins PSNI in Londonderry home raids

By Donna Deeney

Published 30/07/2015

The PSNI said the Army had been searching for weapons or explosives
The PSNI said the Army had been searching for weapons or explosives

A huge search operation involving the Army has taken place in Londonderry on the same day police described the threat from dissident republican terrorists as severe.

A house in Ederowan Park and another in Glendale, both in the Galliagh area, were raided by the police and military investigating violent dissident terrorist activity.

The PSNI said the Army had been searching for weapons or explosives.

The searches began shortly after 10.30am and continued for almost six hours.

There were no arrests, although a number of items were taken for forensic examination.

While soldiers were largely removed from Northern Ireland's streets in 2007 - with the notable exception of the bomb disposal squad - the Army also took part in similar searches of a residence in Creggan five years ago.

Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan defended their presence.

He said: "Due to the suspected presence of munitions or explosives, military specialists were deployed in support of police.

"The role of these military personnel is to search for munitions and explosive devices which, if located, will then be dealt with by the Army bomb disposal officer."

A spokesman for the MoD added: "We have specialist search capabilities and explosive ordnance capabilities which can be called on as and when they are required by the PSNI, just as everywhere else in the UK."

Independent Derry councillor Dermot Quigley said the temperature on the ground in Galliagh during the searches was "extremely high".

"People are disgusted to see the British Army back on the streets of Galliagh and they are livid at the aggressive and hostile response by the police, which flies in the face of the peace process," he added.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said he will raise the presence of the Army at the searches with the Chief Constable.

He added: "The use of British soldiers in house searches is unacceptable and only makes it more difficult for political leaders and others to achieve genuine policing with the community."

The search operation took place as fears that dissident republicans were preparing to target the Public Prosecution Service offices on the city's Limavady Road were raised.

CCTV cameras monitoring the building were smashed in the early hours of Tuesday - the same night as a number of vehicles were suspected to have been scouting the building.

The terror threat in Derry was discussed yesterday by Justice Minister David Ford and Foyle district commander, Chief Superintendent Mark McEwan.

Mr Ford was told the terrorist threat in Derry is severe, but he said he believed the level of co-operation with the police across the city was also at an all time high.

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