Police in Northern Ireland prevented a suspected bomb attack on officers which damaged a police vehicle while the occupants remained unharmed.
The attack happened shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday in Strabane, a Northern Irish city that lies about 80 miles west of Belfast, the capital city which lies close to the border with the Republic of Ireland. The officers were in the midst of an attempt to conduct investigations into the anti-social behavior at the time, the BBC reported.
The officers were not in the car at the time of the explosion and only discovered evidence of “some type of blast damage” after returning to the station to inspect the vehicle. Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton spoke on BBC Radio Ulster, saying officers were “shocked” by the experience.
“This attack took place in a busy residential area. It was reckless and any member of the public, regardless of our officers, could have been injured,” 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, resulting in the Good Friday Agreement, in 1998, which ended most hostilities.
The Northern Ireland Police Service said the explosion “appears to have been a targeted attack on police” and that the investigation “remains at an early stage”.
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“However, the attack, believed to have been caused by an improvised explosive device, caused damage to a police vehicle and is being treated as an attempted assassination of two officers,” the force said in a statement. Police called the device a “viable explosive.”
Politicians on both sides of the border condemned the attack. Preliminary suspicion has fallen on the New IRA, which has a small support base in Londonderry, roughly 14 miles north of Strabane, according to The Guardian.
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Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said any “attempts to harm members of the security forces or the PSNI would be absolutely shocking and must be condemned.”
“The terrorist objective was to cause anguish and misery and return Northern Ireland to the dark ages,” said Liam Kelly, chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Federation. “There is nothing to be gained from such an insensitive and hateful incident.”
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Kelly said police rate the terrorist threat as “substantial” and urged all officers to “intensify their vigilance.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.