Monday 9 December 2019

Police in the North search for gang who threw bomb at officer’s home

Lesley-Anne McKeown

DETECTIVES hunting a gang who threw a bomb at the home of a serving police officer in Northern Ireland were carrying out door-to-door enquiries today.

The home-made device described as crude and viable was discovered in the Coolnagard area of Omagh, Co Tyrone yesterday.

It was found during a follow-up operation after an off-duty policeman opened fire on the masked bombers using his standard-issue weapon.

No one was injured and, in line with normal protocol, the Police Ombudsman has been informed.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland has condemned what it described as a cowardly attack.

Almost two years ago dissident republicans operating in the same area of Tyrone murdered Catholic PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) recruit Constable Ronan Kerr.

The 25-year-old was killed when the terrorists detonated an undercar booby trap device as he drove to work.

Last month a policeman living in east Belfast escaped injury after he found a bomb below his family car as he prepared to take his wife and children to lunch.

A number of homes had to be evacuated during yesterday's alert. Army bomb squad officers spent several hours examining the explosive object.

West Tyrone Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey, who sits on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said it was a sinister reminder of Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Mr Hussey said: "Omagh and Northern Ireland don't need this and we won't let morons drag us back to the past.

"Coolnagard is a quiet residential area where everyone gets on very well. Those who carry out such sinister acts are only trying to drive a wedge between communities. Now is a time when we should all stand shoulder to shoulder against terrorism, from wherever it may arise.

"Once again, we should also acknowledge the work of the security forces including the PSNI and Army Bomb Disposal team who responded promptly in the aftermath to seal off the area, evacuate residents and deal with the explosive device."

Sinn Fein MLA Declan McAleer, who visited the scene, said he was deeply concerned.

He said: "I spoke to several of the evacuated residents and they are very concerned that such a sinister incident involving the discharge of a firearm and a suspicious device has taken place in their community. I am therefore relieved that no one has been hurt or injured in this incident.

"Coolnagard is a very quiet residential area of the town where people from all sections of the community live side by side and where community relations are very good.

"The investigation is still ongoing so I await further details from the PSNI as to the exact nature of the events which unfolded here on Friday night."

A spokeswoman for the PSNI has appealed for anyone who noticed suspicious activity in the Coolnagard area over the past couple of months to come forward.

PA Media

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