Dissident bomb would have caused 'utter devastation'
POLICE admitted last night that a deadly van bomb, planted outside a PSNI station by dissident republicans, would have caused "utter devastation" if it had been detonated.
The van, which contained an estimated 300 pounds of homemade explosive, was left outside the station in the border village of Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, on Thursday night.
Some 350 people were evacuated from their homes as the bomb was being defused by British army ordnance experts, and residents had to spend the night in three local halls.
A burnt-out car was later found abandoned near the border in Co Monaghan and gardai were last night working closely with the PSNI to establish if it was linked to the terror gang behind the failed bomb attempt.
Foreign Minister Micheal Martin last night condemned the attempted attack as "a reckless and cowardly act, whose only impact was to put at grave risk the safety of the people of Aughnacloy".
He said the attack had no justification or excuse, no mandate and no legitimacy.
"The gangs, which carry out such violence and criminality, should cease their activity and disband immediately," Mr Martin added.
PSNI Superintendent Brian Kee accused the perpetrators of being "criminal terrorists".
He said the intention of those responsible was to murder police officers with no regard for the people who lived in the community.
"They completely ignored the fact that there could easily have been passers-by or nearby residents caught up and killed, or seriously injured, in an explosion.
"This is an outrage and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms by every right-thinking person," Supt Kee said.
The white van was left outside the police station, with the engine running.
The local primary school was closed for the day while some roads around the village were cordoned off in the security operation.The alarm was raised in a telephone warning to a Belfast newspaper office. The caller, who used a recognised code word, claimed the bomb had been left there by dissident republicans.
Gardai and the PSNI have been on a high state of alert in the Border region in recent months because of an increase in attacks from dissidents, mainly members of the Real IRA.
Meanwhile, police said a pipe bomb was thrown at the rear of a PSNI station at Brownlow in Craigavon, Co Armagh. The bomb did not explode.
Seymour Crawford, Fine Gael TD for Cavan-Monaghan, condemned the Aughnacloy bomb saying: "The placing of a large bomb in Aughnacloy last night is sad proof that there are still significant numbers of people only interested in violence and destruction."
He added: "The border area of Aughnacloy and Truagh is a standing example of where people from all backgrounds, religious and political, have worked together to rebuild a community spirit.
"The action of this group of dissidents is only aimed at bringing us back to the bad old days that the majority of this country has clearly voted against in the Good Friday Agreement."