Belfast Telegraph

New IRA to blame for Strabane mortar bomb attack, say police

Forensics at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Forensics at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Forensics at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
An ATO robot carries out a controlled explosion on a mortar in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo Leona O'Neill)
Police at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Forensics at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Forensics at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Forensics at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
General view of Strabane PSNI Station at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Police at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
General view of Strabane PSNI Station at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
General view of Strabane PSNI Station at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The scene of the security alert in Strabane. Credit: Leona O'Neill

The New IRA is responsible for a mortar bomb attack in Strabane on Saturday, according to police.

A major operation targeting the paramilitary group got underway in Creggan in Londonderry on Monday.

Up to 80 officers are involved in a search for bomb-making material after the discovery of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) by a resident in the Church View area sparked a security alert.

"We have a small group of individuals absolutely intent on inflicting harm on our community," said Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, who is the Area Commander for the District. 

"There are small numbers that are not allowing our communities to develop and move on.

"As a district commander, we are concerned as an organisation that this is the seventh attack this year of significance and it's presenting us with real challenges," he said.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne has described the attack as an attempt to kill officers and said it's "a stark reminder why we need to grow PSNI to 7500 officers to grow our presence in communities to deal with this severe threat".

A 33-year-old man has been arrested under the Terrorism Act in relation to the discovery. He was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Police believe the incident may be linked to the hijacking of a Pizza delivery driver's car in the Mount Sion area on Friday evening.

A number of homes in the Church View area were evacuated following the discovery of the object while it was made safe and removed for further examination.

General view of Strabane PSNI Station at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
General view of Strabane PSNI Station at the scene of a mortar find in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Speaking on Sunday, Detective Inspector Andrew Hamlin said that police believed the device was placed "in order to attack police officers at the nearby police station but it had the capacity to kill or seriously injure anyone in the vicinity".

"This is not the first time a deadly device has been left in a public space recently and serves to remind us all how little the terrorists responsible care for the lives of local people," he said.

Inspector Hamlin said police were linking the incident to a hijacking on Friday evening at 9.40pm.

"A fake order was placed with a pizza outlet from a phone box on Bridge Street and when the driver arrived at the stated address, his orange coloured Fiat Sedici was taken from him by three men. It was subsequently discovered on fire at Evish Road around 45 minutes later," he said.

"I am keen to hear from anyone who saw the orange Fiat in the town or who noticed anything out of the ordinary in the Church View area on Friday night. Detectives can be contacted on 101 quoting reference number 371 07/09/19.

"We are continuing to conduct enquiries in the area today and this morning arrested a 33 year old man under terrorism legislation. He remains in police custody at present.”

An ATO robot carries out a controlled explosion on a mortar in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo Leona O'Neill)
An ATO robot carries out a controlled explosion on a mortar in the Church view area of Strabane on September 7th 2019 (Photo Leona O'Neill)

Police Federation for Northern Ireland Chair Mark Lindsay described the attack as "diabolical and cowardly".

 “Once again, public vigilance and police professionalism have averted a disaster. Three mortars aimed at the station had only one intention and that was to claim the lives of officers serving the entire community," he said.

“These mortars are notoriously indiscriminate and inaccurate. Members of the public were just as likely to have borne the brunt of this savagery as our colleagues.

“What this thwarted attack tells us is that these terrorists are determined to kill – and to kill anyone, not just police officers. They are setting lethal traps with murderous intent and are clearly in search of what they disgustedly call a ‘spectacular’.

“They want to show some warped relevance through their brutal and sickening attacks and on the vicious assaults they commit within communities who want to see the back of them."

Sinn Fein West Tyrone MP Orfhaith Begley said those responsible for the bomb "have nothing to offer".

“This was an attack on the entire community. Thankfully no one was injured in this disgraceful incident," she said.

“It only served to bring disruption and fear to the local community in Strabane who reject this dangerous and futile actions.

“Those responsible have nothing to offer society and need to end their attacks against the community.”

West Tyrone SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said if the device had detonated many residents could have been killed.

“There is no place for these criminals on the streets of our town. Those who planted a viable explosive device in a built up residential area were reckless with the lives of the elderly people and families who live here. They need to get off our streets and get off the back of people living here," Mr McCrossan said.

“Thanks to the residents who discovered the device and the actions of police we aren’t dealing with a tragedy this morning. But those responsible must be flushed out of this community and they should face justice for their attempt to murder and maim our friends and neighbours.

“Their is a duty on anyone who has any information about this to come forward to police as soon as possible. The people behind this will do it again, they will put the lives of people in our community at risk. We all have to take a stand and stop them."

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