Belfast Telegraph

Fermanagh bomb should serve as sign that we need to up our game, says anti-terrorism chief

PSNI officers close to the scene of the bomb attack at Wattle Bridge in Co Fermanagh
PSNI officers close to the scene of the bomb attack at Wattle Bridge in Co Fermanagh
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A counter-terrorism expert has warned police to "get ready" for further attacks by dissident republicans ahead of Brexit.

Ken Pennington has predicted a series of attacks against officers between now and October 31 - the deadline for the UK leaving the EU.

While PSNI deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin says there is no evidence to suggest yesterday's bomb attack in Co Fermanagh targeting police and Army officers was linked to the EU withdrawal, Mr Pennington believes dissidents will use Brexit to seek the "oxygen of publicity".

Mr Pennington, who helped foil a car bomb attack at Victoria Square in Belfast city centre in 2013, told the Belfast Telegraph: "While I'm glad that no one was hurt in Co Fermanagh, hopefully it's a signal event that makes us all up our game and get ready for what could be coming.

"In the airline industry it would be called a near-miss.

"Next time we may not be so fortunate so we need to take the learning out of the near-misses."

Mr Pennington, who fronts The Last Castle, an anti-terrorism and human rights consultancy, added: "The difference between terrorism and crime gangs is that terrorism needs a story to justify itself.

"In this case Brexit is the narrative and the border is the big issue so terrorists will seek to get the most benefit from that while the world's Press is here."

Mr Pennington has already predicted that "a massive bomb in a city centre" - in Belfast, Derry or wherever dissidents can inflict the maximum economic damage.

He added: "There will be more incidents like what happened at Wattle Bridge but I'm equally certain that people in multiple agencies, both north and south of the border, are doing everything they can to stop that.

"The PSNI is moving back to a community-based approach to build trust as that's where the information comes from.

"Unfortunately there are still places in Northern Ireland where people wouldn't lift the phone to call police with information and it's about building that community policing model where they will do that."

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