Policeman hurt as car explodes
Off-duty officer is pulled from his blazing vehicle in border horror
An off-duty policeman was rushed to hospital last night after the car in which he was travelling exploded in a small Co Tyrone village.
The incident occurred in the border village of Spamount, just a few miles from Castlederg, at around 9.30pm.
Police sealed off the area as officers moved in to investigate the scene. Army Technical Officers were also called in, along with the Fire and Rescue Service.
The Catholic officer is understood to have suffered leg and lower body injuries in the blast, but police said that the injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
Strabane councillor Derek Hussey said a local resident had shown great courage in helping to remove the officer from the blazing vehicle after the explosion.
He added that the injured driver was "not a resident from the area, but may have been visiting in the area".
"The car had just turned from the crossroads to head into the village and was approximately 40 or 50 metres down the road," he said. " There would be no dwellings in the immediate area."
The cause of the explosion had not been confirmed last night, but Mr Hussey speculated that the blast "may have been an under-car device which exploded, resulting in the car going on fire".
The incident comes little more than six months after two off-duty police officers were shot and wounded in Dungannon and Londonderry by dissident republicans.
"There have been growing concerns as to republican associated terror activity in the Strabane district and this may be justification of that concern," said Mr Hussey.
"Within the past year there has been dissident activity in and around the area with fire bombings and such like. I cannot figure where the type of person who would undertake this type of activity is coming from.
"There has been a lot of movement, politically and otherwise, within Northern Ireland. It would appear that there are those who cannot accept progress."
He added: "I would like to express my concern for the individual in the car and their family."
Secretary of State Shaun Woodward condemned the attack.
He said: " The contrast between the PSNI officer, dedicated to serving the community, and those with no politics, no support and no principles, who carried this cowardly attack could not be clearer.
"As Northern Ireland moves towards a new and better future, there remains a tiny minority of contemptible, criminal elements who have been rejected by the people, north and south.
"They will not be allowed to stand in the way of progress.
"Anyone with any information about this incident should take it to the police."