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Shots fired at police during railway alert

Police were shot at as they investigated a suspicious object close to the railway line outside Newry at the weekend.

The gun attack has been slammed as a “cowardly attempt to kill officers”.

No-one was hurt in the incident at just after 9pm on Saturday as a unit investigated a suspicious object close to a railway line outside Newry.

Dissident republicans have been blamed for the shooting, which comes weeks after a massive bomb was detonated outside the city’s courthouse.

Commenting on the weekend attack, District Commander Chief Superintendent Alisdair Robinson thanked the local community for their patience as the alert was investigated.

“The people who carry out these senseless acts show a total disregard for their fellow man and are not part of the society within which the majority of people of Northern Ireland wish to live,” he said.

“Officers will continue to look after the policing needs of all our people and will put in place whatever measures are necessary to take a robust stance against those who seem determined to disrupt and attack local communities.”

Sinn Fein MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy said those who carried out the attack were “stuck in the past”.

“These micro-groups have disrupted the Dublin-Belfast railway line since Friday, inconveniencing business and leisure travellers alike,” said Mr Murphy, the transport minister.

“They must know that they have no support in the community for this type of activity.

“Additionally, their unsuccessful attempts on the lives of PSNI officers who were attempting to return the railway line to operation are neither supported by myself or the vast majority of people in the locality.”

The latest attack has also raised concerns that the PSNI could be forced to further scale back crime scene investigations over fear of attack.

Last month police allowed firefighters to tackle a burning car suspected of being involved in the 250lb bomb blast at Newry courthouse because of ambush worries.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has defended the actions of his officers, saying he is not prepared to deliberately put them in harm’s way.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “The fact is that dissidents are targeting police officers and I won’t consider putting my colleagues in deliberate danger.

“I seem to be constantly expected to hurry up bomb disposal teams, to hurry up the clearing of areas.

“I won’t be hurrying up for a single second if it puts lives at risk.”

The railway line between Newry and Dundalk remained closed last night.

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