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Dissidents blamed for police station pipe bomb

By Stephen Breen

Dissident republicans were last night accused of hurling a pipe bomb at a police station in Co Tyrone.

The device - described by police as "viable" - was thrown at the base in Strabane late on Saturday night.

The device, which did not explode, was found near the station's gates before Army technical experts were called to the scene.

Although no-one was injured in the incident, fears are growing of increased dissident republican activity in the area.

Senior security sources last night linked the Real IRA to the incident.

Police have urged the community to remain vigilant in the run-up to Christmas.

One source said: "The Real IRA, which works closely with INLA members, seems to be the biggest threat to the security forces in this area.

"They may be based in Co Tyrone but they have also been active in Co Londonderry and police are taking the threat this group poses very seriously.

"These devices are designed to kill and if a police officer had been standing nearby then we could have quite easily been dealing with a murder."

A number of homes in Belfast and Co Fermanagh were also searched at the weekend as part of a probe into the activities of dissident republicans.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Brian McMahon condemned the attack, adding: " It is now time for these groups to leave the stage because these people have no support in the nationalist community.

"If this is an attempt by these people to test Sinn Fein's support for policing then it is a test they will fail."

The attack comes after Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde admitted earlier this month dissident republican weaponry had become "more sophisticated" .

Although dissidents failed in two murder bids on police officers earlier this month, police are worried about their growing threat.

Since the start of 2007, rebel republicans have been responsible for murdering Belfast men Joe Jones and Ed Burns, fire-bomb attacks on Orange halls, hoax bomb alerts and punishment attacks.

Police believe the Real IRA and Continuity IRA pose the biggest threat, but they now have to contend with a new terror group calling itself the Irish Republican Liberation Army.

The IRLA recently staged a show of strength before issuing death threats against senior Sinn Fein members over their support for policing.

Belfast Telegraph

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