Northern Ireland

Lurgan bomb attack was 'designed to kill' police, says PSNI

Police said the attack bore all the hallmarks of violent dissident republicans Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Police said the attack bore all the hallmarks of violent dissident republicans

A bomb which exploded in County Armagh on Saturday was "absolutely designed to kill" police, the PSNI has said.

Homes were evacuated in Lurgan after officers responded to a call reporting an unexploded device - but, as they searched, a bomb exploded.

Police believe the initial call was designed to lure officers to the area.

Supt David Moore said it "may well have been the case" that the bomb was detonated by people watching from a distance.

He said it would probably have been "much larger" than a pipe bomb and was "obviously designed to take out officers on foot".

"It's more than likely at this stage that this was an anti-personnel device," Supt Moore said.

"It bears all the hallmarks of violent dissident republican terrorists."

He said the area where the device exploded is "frequented by both younger children at play and older children sometimes guilty of creating something of a nuisance".

He said as a result it would be an area often patrolled by the police.

Second device

The security alert began following a call to a charity, during which the caller said a device had been fired at a police patrol but had failed to explode.

Officers found a suspicious object and evacuated families from homes in Victoria Street.

However, while police officers were searching the area a second device went off. The explosion happened between 16:00 and 17:00 BST.

Police said on Sunday that the devices they recovered "appeared to have been planted" and they did not believe any device was fired at them.

Image caption A police helicopter was used in the security operation in Lurgan
Image caption Families left their homes as a police cordon was set up
Image caption The alert began following a call to a charity, during which the caller said a device had been fired at a police patrol but had failed to explode. Police said the devices that were found appeared to have been planted.
Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Families were moved from their homes in Victoria Street in Lurgan

Police officers were also attacked with petrol bombs and bricks during the security alert.

'Pointless actions'

Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford said whoever was behind the attack "had a clear intention to kill police officers".

"They showed absolutely no regard for local residents, who could have been killed or injured," he said.

Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd, from Sinn Féin, also condemned those responsible, saying they had "brought nothing but disruption to the local community".

"Those behind this alert are not representative of the people of Lurgan and should stop these pointless actions immediately," he added.

As a result of the security alert, the rail line between Lisburn and Portadown was closed.

Families have now returned to their homes in Victoria Street following the alert.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly described the attack as "not only an evil attempt to kill the PSNI but a total disregard for the people of Lurgan".

DUP councillor Carla Lockhart said the devices "were designed to murder police officers who were trying to serve their community".

Ulster Unionist councillor Colin McCusker said he felt nothing but "despair" with regard to the incident.

He said a small minority appeared "intent on disrupting the lives of the vast majority of people, not just in Lurgan, but the whole of Northern Ireland".

Police Federation Northern Ireland chairman Mark Lindsay said it was only the professionalism of those responding to the call that had meant tragedy was averted.

"The bravery of these officers can only be contrasted with the cowardice of those plotting such atrocities," he said.

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