Belfast Telegraph

24 hours of dissident terror in Northern Ireland

Residents forced to leave homes as pipe bomb alerts cause chaos

Armagh
Armagh
Lisburn
Rasharkin
Lurgan

By Brett Campbell and Allan Preston

Dissident republicans have been blamed for four separate pipe bomb attacks within 24 hours.

A suspicious device was thrown through a downstairs window of a property in Rasharkin, Co Antrim, on Tuesday night. Another was left sitting on a windowsill.

It is understood the male occupant lives alone in the house at Moneyleck Park.

Dozens of residents were forced to flee their homes as officers swarmed the quiet cul-de-sac at around 11pm.

Army bomb disposal teams remained at the scene for most of the night.

By 6am most residents had been allowed to return home.

"We were able to go to my mother-in-law's house," one said.

"I'm very worried that whoever did it will try it again, that's a real fear."

The mum-of-one said she has been trying to sell her house for several years now and fears an escalation in the number of violent incidents will prevent her from moving.

"I can't get rid of it and this is another setback," she added.

"There was a shooting last year, then one man was put out and now this.

"Who's going to want to buy a house here?"

Another neighbour expressed their shock after being woken up by police knocking on the door.

"I couldn't believe it when they told me to get out, but it was worse when they told me why," they said.

"They opened up the parochial hall so we went there and people were coming and going. We didn't live immediately next door so we were allowed back in around 3am."

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey condemned those responsible for the "very concerning" incident that caused significant disruption.

"Anyone involved in placing such a device clearly has no regard for life," he added.

Police are also investigating after two pipe bombs exploded outside a property on Windmill Avenue in Armagh on Tuesday. The devices detonated around 11.30pm causing damage to the front door of a terraced bungalow.

Three adults who were inside escaped unharmed.

Sinn Fein councillor Garath Keating said the "very concerning" incident put a lot of young families in harm's way.

More homes were evacuated yesterday following the discovery of suspicious objects at Cornakinnegar Road in Lurgan, near St Michael's School, and Rathvarna Drive in Lisburn.

It's understood police are not linking the four security alerts, which happened within 24 hours at this stage.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon SDLP councillor Joe Nelson told this newspaper he believed dissident republican groups were responsible for causing much of the disorder. "Easter weekend is obviously a big date on the republican calendar," he said.

"Last year there was quite a number of arrests after an illegal republican parade held on the Saturday, so I think they're probably upping the ante.

"They goad younger people into getting involved in activities like this and rioting."

Mr Nelson said he has represented young people at youth justice conferences over previous incidents.

"I think dissident groups are using young people and they end up as the cannon fodder," he added.

"I expect the police are considering their response to illegal marches over Easter.

"From that perspective, I think they're just trying to up the ante and cause the most disruption possible."

He also warned that the local community suffers from such attacks as he urged parents to be vigilant and "know where your children are" this weekend.

The security alert on Cornakinnegar Road ended yesterday after Army bomb disposal experts declared the suspicious object an elaborate hoax.

It was removed for further examination.

PSNI Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said: "I would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding during the course of this prolonged policing operation.

"A large number of residents were evacuated from their homes for a considerable period of time and pupils at two local primary schools were affected by the incident.

"The blame for the inconvenience, however, lies squarely with those individuals who left this close to a local school."

Mr Burrows said that during the course of the day a number of calls were received "claiming that terrorists had left what they described as an unstable device in the area".

"The security operation caused significant disruption to the people of the area, but was necessary to allow for a careful examination of the scene in order to keep people safe," he added.

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