The targeting of a member of the police force with an explosive device is a grim sign that the violence which has broken out recently in Northern Ireland could rapidly escalate, with serious consequences in the near future.
The attack in County Londonderry was described as an “act of terrorism” by first minister Arlene Foster of the DUP ( Democratic Unionist Party) and “ reprehensible attempted murder” by deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein, with both warning of the danger of a return to the days of strife.
A security source told The Independent that the device, which was “professionally put together and viable”, had been placed in a bag on the officer’s doorstep.
The woman targeted worked in a civilian capacity dealing with staffing issues at a police station. It is believed to have been the first time in two years that an attack of this type has been carried out on a member of the security forces.
Dissident Republicans are believed to have been responsible, with the Real IRA and New IRA the main suspects.
The leadership of the New IRA was said to have been dismantled in an operation, codenamed Arbacia, by MI5 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) last year.
Eight men and two women are in custody for 39 alleged offences, including directing terrorism and seeking to obtain Semtex plastic explosives.
But the group, which killed journalist Lyra McKee during disturbances in Londonderry two years ago, are said to be still active.
Around 20 per cent of MI5’s work is now focused on Northern Ireland, a rise in recent years after years of relative calmness in the region following the Good Friday Agreement.
The attempted bombing comes during prolonged protests by loyalists over a series of grievances including the imposition of a sea border between Britain and Northern Ireland following Brexit and the refusal by prosecuting authorities to take action against Sinn Fein politicians, including Ms O’Neill, for alleged breach of Covid regulations when they attended the funeral of Bobby Storey, a prominent republican.
Both former IRA and loyalist paramilitary fighters have insisted that they have not encouraged the recent riots by youths in the catholic and protestant communities.
But rise in violent acts by dissident nationalists, as well as rogue loyalist groups which have become heavily criminalised, raises apprehension about resurfacing of sectarian fighting.