Belfast Telegraph

Fermanagh bomb targets police and Army, widespread condemnation after 'reckless' attack

Stephen Martin (Rebecca Black/PA)
Stephen Martin (Rebecca Black/PA)
Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew
The bomb detonated on Monday morning

Police officers have escaped injury after an explosive device detonated in Co Fermanagh.

Army bomb disposal officers and police were at the scene when the explosion happened on the main A3 Cavan Road at around 10.35am on Monday. No one was injured.

Bomb disposal officers had been in the nearby Wattle Bridge area at the weekend responding to reports that a device had been left there.

That item was ultimately declared a hoax but it is understood another device exploded close-by on Monday when a bomb disposal team attended to review the scene.

It is understood the Army team of Ammunition Technical Officers (ATO) and police were fortunate to escape without injury.

The finger of suspicion will again point to dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

There will be suspicions the hoax device was part of a booby trap plan to bring security forces into the area prior to the detonation of the viable device.

PSNI deputy chief constable Stephen Martin said he is of the "firm belief" the attack was a deliberate attempt to lure police and ATO into the area "to murder them".

We are extremely fortunate that the actions of officers who were first on scene meant that there was not serious injury or death. Deputy chief constable Stephen Martin

"Although this device was intended to kill police and army personnel the fact that it was placed on a main road the result could well have been devastating for anyone in the immediate vicinity," he said.

“This attack was indiscriminate and reckless and, whilst there is no doubt in my mind that police responding to this call were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the explosion.

"We are extremely fortunate that the actions of officers who were first on scene meant that there was not serious injury or death.  I wish to acknowledge and commend the bravery and commitment of those officers and army personnel at the scene of this attack.

“I would like to again thank the community for their patience and cooperation throughout the security operation as we seek to ensure their safety. The area around the scene will remain closed for some time while our officers conduct their investigations and ensure the area is safe."

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Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew

Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew condemned the attack.

"This morning's bomb attack in Wattle Bridge was totally wrong," she said.

"Thankfully no one was injured in this incident but we could have been dealing with a situation where people were seriously injured or worse.

"Those responsible for this incident have nothing to offer society and need to end these actions immediately.

"Anyone with information on this should bring it forward to the PSNI."

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DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "My thoughts are with the police officers/ATOs who escaped injury in Wattle Bridge. A reminder of the bravery of our security forces. The threat from republican terrorists still exists.

"It’s time they left the stage and allowed everyone to move on. This was a clear attempt to kill."

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Dolores Kelly of the SDLP (Liam McBurney/PA)

Dolores Kelly, SDLP MLA and Policing Board member, paid tribute to the officers at the scene.

"They continue to work hard to keep communities like this safe and today’s incident is another reminder of the serious threat that they operate under," she said.

“There is no place for this in the society we’ve created. The SDLP wil be meeting with the Chief Constable later this week and we'll be raising the security threat in border communities as an urgent matter.”

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MLA Rosemary Barton

Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton described the attack as a "despicable crime".

“There is an onus on everyone in the Fermanagh community to help the PSNI catch the criminals responsible for this heinous crime," she added.

“For many years the people of this area were subject to a terrorist campaign of murder and intimidation resulting in people being forced to move from their homes.

"Now once again the law abiding people of this area are being targeted. This has happened several times within the past year. Sadly terrorists are still at work in our society."

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Leo Varadkar

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted: "I strongly condemn the cowardly actions of those responsible for the bomb attack in Co Fermanagh this morning, which could have had devastating consequences. There is never any justification to use violence to achieve political aims.

"The people of Ireland, North and South, had their say on this issue when they voted overwhelmingly and emphatically for the Good Friday Agreement. It is a considerable relief that no PSNI officers were seriously injured or killed when this bomb went off.

"We should be in no doubt that this device was intended to inflict maximum harm. I encourage anyone who has information on this incident to provide it to the PSNI, so that those responsible can be brought to justice and future attacks prevented."

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Secretary of State Julian Smith

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said he is following the events in Fermanagh closely.

"I commend the bravery of police and others working to keep us safe," he added.

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