Police in Northern Ireland foiled a suspected bomb attack on officers in which a police vehicle was damaged but the occupants were unharmed.
The attack took place shortly before 11pm on Thursday in Strabane, a town in Northern Ireland located 80 miles west of Belfast, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. Officers were trying to make inquiries about anti-social behavior at the time, the BBC reported.
Officers were not in the vehicle at the time of the explosion and only discovered evidence of “some sort of blast damage” after returning to the station to inspect the vehicle. Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton spoke on BBC Radio Ulster and said officers were “devastated” by the experience.
“This attack happened in a busy residential area. It was reckless, and any member of the public, never mind our officers, could have been hurt,” Singleton said.
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Northern Ireland was locked in a 30-year period of violence known as the “Troubles”, during which such attacks were common. The opposing factions reached a peace agreement, leading to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which largely ended hostilities.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the blast “appears to be a targeted attack on police” and that the investigation is “in its early stages.”
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“However, the attack, which is believed to have been caused by an improvised explosive device, damaged a police vehicle and is being treated as an attempt to kill two officers,” the force said. said in a statement. Police described the device as a “viable explosive”.
Politicians on both sides of the border condemned the attack. According to the Guardian, initial suspicion has fallen on the New IRA, which has a small base of support in Londonderry, about 14 miles north of Strabane.
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Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin said “any attempt to injure members of the security forces or PSNI would be deeply regrettable and condemned.”
Liam Kelly, head of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said: “The aim of terrorism was to cause heartache and suffering and return Northern Ireland to the Dark Ages.” “There is nothing to be gained from such a despicable, hate-filled incident.”
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Kelly said police consider the terror threat “substantial” and urged all officers to “heighten their vigilance.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.