‘This is attempted murder’: Northern Ireland’s police react to bomb attack on officers in County Tyrone

Two officers were targeted in Mount Carmel Heights in Strabane on Thursday night (PA Archive)
Two officers were targeted in Mount Carmel Heights in Strabane on Thursday night (PA Archive)

Police in Northern Ireland have said a bomb attack in Co Tyrone was an attempt to murder police officers.

Two officers were targeted in Mount Carmel Heights in Strabane on Thursday night in an attack involving an improvised explosive device.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland said the officers were lucky to escape uninjured when their vehicle was attacked.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “The police service can confirm that the ongoing security alert in the Mount Carmel Heights area of Strabane this morning, Friday 18 November, follows what appears to have been a targeted attack on police shortly before 11pm last night.

“Investigations are at an early stage, however, the attack, which is believed to have been caused by an improvised explosive device, caused damage to a police vehicle and is being treated as the attempted murder of two officers.

“The road remains closed and motorists are advised to avoid the area. No homes have been evacuated at this time.

“A further update will be provided in due course.”

A major security alert is continuing in the area, affecting more than 1,000 residents and leaving some children unable to get to school.

This is the first significant attack on police in Northern Ireland in several years. Previous attacks have been carried out by dissident republican groups opposed to the peace process.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said any attempt to kill officers was “reprehensible”.

She tweeted: “Those involved in this attack will not succeed in dragging society backwards.

“We must all unite against these reckless actions. We must keep building the peace and moving forward.”

Taosieach Micheal Martin was in Newry, Co Down, when news of the attack began to emerge.

He said: “I have just been hearing news overnight and we do need further clarity in terms of what happened here and I understand an investigation is under way.

“But any such attempt to injure members of the security forces or the PSNI would be absolutely shocking and stands to be condemned.

“It is quite shocking, if that is the case, that something like that would happen.”

The PFNI said the attack in Strabane was a “desperate, reckless act to murder officers working for the entire community”.

This was a desperate, reckless act. It will not deter our colleagues from doing their job with professionalism and dedication

Liam Kelly, PFNI

PFNI Chair, Liam Kelly, said: “The terrorist goal was to cause heartache and misery and return Northern Ireland to the dark ages.

“We are grateful that officers in the vehicle targeted by these cowards were unhurt.

“The attackers wanted their roadside device to cause maximum damage and we are thankful they failed in their objective.

“Nothing is gained by such a callous, hate-filled incident. The terrorist threat is rated ‘substantial’ and I would appeal to all officers to step up their vigilance.

“This attack is a reminder to us all that terrorists are still active in our community.

They want to maim or murder our men and women. The truth is they are a bankrupt throwback to another time and have nothing to offer society.

“I would appeal to people to help the police track down those responsible and bring them before the courts.

“This was a desperate, reckless act. It will not deter our colleagues from doing their job with professionalism and dedication.”

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said the attack had caused a major security alert in the area.

He added: “The bomb attack on two police officers as they served the community in Strabane last night was a depraved act committed by people determined to bring murder and mayhem to our town.

“This is a very serious situation, two police officers, and anyone else nearby, could have been killed last night.

“Those responsible are a danger to this community and are acting against the wishes of people here who want to get on with their lives in peace.”

Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Mike Nesbitt said: “Whoever was responsible for this attack is trying to drag this country back to a past we have long since left behind.

“They have nothing positive or of any use to offer and they need to be caught, brought before the courts and punished to the full extent of the law.”

West Tyrone DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said: “I grew up with daily news reports of police officers being murdered.

“It was wrong then and it is wrong today.

“Police officers have always stood on the front line to protect people and serve their community. There has never been any justification for the murder of police officers”