Belfast Telegraph

Chief Constable: 'New IRA' behind Londonderry attacks

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said that the 'New IRA' are behind a week of violence in Derry

There has been six consecutive nights of violent disorder, with several attempts to murder police officers both with guns and bomb-like devices.

On Thursday night trouble broke out in the city's republican Bogside area with 74 petrol bombs thrown at police and residents.

The PSNI took the decision to fire four plastic baton rounds during the disorder.

The Protestant Fountain estate has also been targeted in the attacks.

The Chief Constable said it was only a matter of time before someone was killed if the violence continued.

"We believe violent dissident republican groups are behind this, they will use whatever excuse they can to bring about unrest and to have young people involve themselves in violence against the police," he said at a press conference in Derry.

"We believe there are members of a variety of dissident groups in this disorder - the so-called New IRA is the main group behind these murderous attacks on police.

"We want to police with the community and protect people, we're working hard to maintain protecting people, locking up those responsible and bringing them before courts.

"My fear is someone will be killed or seriously injured, we've already had police officers injured this week. It's only a matter of time before a police officer or a child is injured or worse."

Mr Hamilton was challenged on why police were seemingly reluctant to deploy officers into the Bogside during the rioting.

He said those behind the violence were trying to draw police in.

"We don't want to be fighting with anyone, we use balanced judgment when to go in and when to stay out and operational decisions are made on a routine basis," he said.

"I'm not saying we always get it right but we certainly won't condone unlawfulness, we will pursue those who break the law and bring them before the courts."

He also defended the use of baton rounds, highlighting that only four had been discharged in comparison with 200 petrol bombs being hurled at officers over the last week.

"There's a long history of use of baton rounds in this jurisdiction and it is much safer now than previously," he said.

"We don't want to use these against communities, we have to act in a proportionate manner, but we need full range of tactical options available to us."

Mr Hamilton paid tribute to the work of his officers after the week of violence.

"It is sad for me that we have now been through six nights of disorder and last night (Thursday) in particular there were very large numbers involved," he said.

"There were explosive devices thrown at police officers and lots of petrol bombs.

"I'm very proud of the officers, they have acted with great restraint and great courage. I've been speaking to a number of them and they are an inspiration."

Chief Constable Hamilton said that the attacks did not have the support of the community.

"The community don't want to be putting up with this, residents in the Bogside living in fear of their windows coming in, of their cars being damaged, of riots on their streets," he siad.

"We want to protect those people, we want to work with them and I condemn outright all of those who are involved in this violent activity.

"I do appreciate the growing support from right across the political divisions and political parties, from Church leaders, from other civic leaders condemning this and using whatever influence they can bring to bear for it to stop."

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