Belfast Telegraph

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Breath DNA to catch New IRA bomber - latest technique detects saliva particles

 

The mortar bomb left outside a house in Strabane
The mortar bomb left outside a house in Strabane

By Sarah Henderson

POLICE are confident that a DNA technique could catch the New IRA's 'master bombmaker' behind two recent deadly devices found in the North West.

It is understood scientists believe they can extract 'breath test DNA' from the bombs found in Londonderry and Strabane.

Security sources said the chances of a "positive hit" are high as both improvised devices were found intact before dissident republicans could detonate them in attacks on police officers.

In the first incident on Saturday, September 7, an unfired 'mini rack' of mortars was located near Strabane police station forcing residents to be evacuated while the lethal device was made safe.

The 'mini-rack', containing three mortar tubes, was left on a wall at Church View, which overlooks the town's police station.

The three tubes each contained a warhead, which were packed with high grade powder explosives designed to detonate on impact.

It is believed that the mortar tubes were attached to a timer power unit intended to trigger the launch of the warheads.

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In the past, the New IRA has used mortar-type devices but it is believed to be the first time it has deployed multiple mortars designed to be fired at the same time.

Several days after the attempted mortar attack, a bomb containing commercial explosives and a command wire was found during a major PSNI operation in the Creggan Heights area of Derry. The device was to be used in an attack on a passing police patrol, said police commanders.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne (right) said afterwards: "What we are seeing is changing types of engineering and capability that shows a determination and motivation to launch attacks that are clearly aimed at killing or maiming our officers."

Security sources said forensic scientists were now involved in a painstaking operation to uncover any DNA traces left on the two devices.

"The fact that both devices were found intact without detonation has greatly increased the chances of lifting a DNA sample," said the security source.

"One technique being used is what is called a 'breath test DNA' on the devices.

"We are being told that even if the person who assembled the device was wearing some type of mask it would not prevent leaving some breath residue such as tiny droplets of saliva on them.

"The scientists are hoping that this could be the breakthrough they need to help identify the New IRA's bomb maker."

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