PSNI: Dissident republicans tried to 'lure' officers to scene of Craigavon attack
A call was made to a newspaper claiming a device had been fired at a police patrol in Craigavon, Co Armagh.
Dissident republicans attempted to "lure" police officers in Craigavon to an area to be attacked, a senior PSNI officer has said.
Investigators believe a viable explosive device discovered in Craigavon, Co Armagh, represented a failed bid to target members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) overnight on Friday into Saturday morning.
Chief Superintendent Peter Farrar said detectives were keeping an open mind on whether something had been fired but added that elements of the device were designed to murder officers.
He said: “I cannot condemn strongly enough those behind this cowardly and evil attack of terrorism.
“They offer nothing but heartache to this community and their actions here do not reflect the wishes of the vast majority of the good people living in this area.
“Huge disruption has been caused to the lives of those residents who live nearby, with people being evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night.”
At around midnight police received a report of a loud bang in the Tullygally Road area.
A short time later the PSNI was contacted by a Belfast-based newspaper reporting that it had received a call claiming a device had been fired at a police patrol but had missed its target.
Officers and bomb disposal experts from the Army responded and a suspicious object was discovered, and later confirmed as a viable explosive.
Mr Farrar said: “At this stage we believe the device is viable and that this was an attempt by dissident republican terrorists to murder police officers.
“We can confirm that there was no police patrol in the area at the time of the first report. We believe that this initial ‘loud bang’ may have been an attempt to lure police officers to the area. This will form part of our investigation."
Twenty people were evacuated, including a pensioner aged 80.
They were allowed to return to their homes at around 5pm on Saturday.
The senior officer added: “Attacks on police and other security services are attacks on the entire community and they are an attack on our democracy.
“Anyone willing to launch such an attack in a residential area cares little about our communities. Their reckless violence cannot be allowed to continue.”
Renegades who oppose the peace process have killed police officers, soldiers and prison officers in Northern Ireland, and parts of Craigavon have been a hotspot for dissident activity in the past.
Mr Farrar said: “Clearly this was a lethal device designed to murder police officers or indeed any member of the public, whether they be an older person or a child who would have been in the vicinity of this.”
He confirmed the police focus is on dissident republicans.
The attack has been widely condemned by politicians from across Northern Ireland.
Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson, Doug Beattie, slammed those responsible for the attack.
"It's simple. This is another attempt by republican terrorists to murder police officers going about their lawful duty. These terrorists care little about the people of Craigavon and, indeed, the people of Northern Ireland," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"These are contemptible, deranged and pathetic individuals who are seeking to drag us pack into the past."
DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said the actions of a few "mindless individuals" could have resulted in a scene of devastation.
"Their actions are totally reprehensible and there must be condemnation from all sections of the community towards this behaviour," he said.
"Police officers go out of their homes and put on a uniform to protect our community from harm. For anyone to think that they deserve to be threatened or attacked in such a sinister way like this is clearly morally corrupt.
Belfast Telegraph Digital