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Mortar 'had helicopter target'

A bid by dissident republicans to attack a police helicopter near the Irish border may have been foiled, it has emerged.

A mortar device pointing skywards was discovered near the south Armagh village of Cullyhanna where police and troops have been involved in a major security operation.

It will be Thursday at the earliest before the area has been cleared and follows what may have been an attempt by dissidents opposed to the peace process to down a helicopter.

Stormont assembly member Dominic Bradley said: ''Those responsible still live in some warped existence of the past.''

The finger of suspicion has been pointed at republicans opposed to the peace process, who murdered two soldiers, two police officers and a prison guard in recent years. The level of threat posed is still severe.

There was a large security presence in south Armagh today, including a police helicopter and army bomb disposal experts who carried out a controlled explosion. Two dark-coloured tubes around 10ft long and resembling domestic drain piping were observed at the scene.

Police carrying large automatic weapons guarded a rural approach road within sight of a white-washed house and a dull thud was heard as the device was detonated by a military robot.

Soldiers earlier used sniffer dogs and metal detectors to scour hedgerows and culverts. Many nearby residents had to leave their homes overnight.

A PSNI spokesman said: ''Police can confirm that the suspicious object found in the Bog Road/Lisleitrim Road area of Cullyhanna is a mortar type device. Army Technical Officers are continuing to examine and make safe the device.''

Ulster Unionist Stormont assembly member Danny Kennedy said the discovery was distressing.


From Belfast Telegraph