Belfast Telegraph

Craigavon attack: Ambush fears may delay PSNI response times, says Federation

The device planted in Craigavon on Friday night
The device planted in Craigavon on Friday night
Mark Lindsay
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Fears of an ambush by republican terrorists could delay police response times and put further lives in danger, the union which represents rank and file officers has said.

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay issued the warning as the PSNI released images of a 'viable and deadly device' planted in Craigavon.

Officers were called to the Tullygally Road area at around midnight on Friday after reports of a loud bang. A short time later a Belfast-based newspaper reported receiving a call claiming that a mortar had been fired at police in the same area. A device was located close to a bus stop near Alderdale flats.

Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell believes it was a deliberate attempt lure officers and first responders into the area.

"Despite the initial report to the Tullygally Road our enquiries lead us to believe a mortar was not fired and in fact the entire incident was staged to bring police into an area where another deadly and unstable device awaited," he said.

"Although the explosive was designed and set up to look like a fired mortar, it was in fact a booby-trap device designed to explode if moved or touched. Had it detonated the result would have been catastrophic.

"This attack was indiscriminate. Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that first responders were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the carnage.

"This incident emphasises how important it is that members of the public report anything suspicious and that people do not touch suspect items no matter how innocuous they may seem.

"I ask that anyone who may be able to help our investigation comes forward by calling 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

Mr Lindsay, the federation chairman, said the attack means officers will now have to exercise even greater levels of caution before setting out to deliver help and assistance.

"This was a deliberate attempt to lure them to a place where republican terrorists could mount their ambush," he said.

"Officers operating in particular areas already exercise great caution. They are forced to risk assess and evaluate, and that, unfortunately, can lead to delays in responding to genuine calls from the public.

"No one expects officers to leave themselves vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and that must mean the very real prospect of slower response times."

Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson Doug Beattie said those responsible were intent on anarchy.

"It is absolutely contemptible that these pathetic individuals believe that maiming and murdering police officers - or anyone else who might get in their way - will promote their deranged cause," he said.

"They are nothing more than self-promoting psychopaths who thrive on chaos and anarchy."

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd said those behind the attack have "no support".

"There can be no place in our society for these type of actions," he said. "Those responsible have nothing to offer the local community or society as a whole."

Alliance MLA and Policing Board member John Blair said there needs to be a plan to tackle paramilitarism.

"We need to ensure those determined to cause carnage on our streets are removed as a threat and dealt with in an appropriate way," he said.

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley described the attack as "reprehensible".

"Police officers go out of their homes and put on a uniform to protect our community. Anyone thinking they deserve to be attacked in such a sinister way is clearly morally corrupt," he said.

In 2009 PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead by dissident republicans as he responded to a 999 call in Craigavon.

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