Driver hijacked and forced to abandon suspicious object outside police station

A man was hijacked at gunpoint by a masked gang and then forced to drive his car with a suspicious object on board to a police station in Northern Ireland.

The incident caused a major security alert in Omagh, Co Tyrone, which led to a number of people being evacuated from their homes and cordons erected.

While the alert has now ended, examinations are ongoing to establish if the suspicious device is viable.

The victim was hijacked by three masked men in the Fireagh Road area, off the Dromore Road in Omagh, at around 10pm on Saturday.

The masked men placed a suspicious object in his vehicle – a silver-coloured Volkswagen Golf – and forced him to travel to the Derry Road area and abandon the car outside Omagh police station.

Ammunition technical officers examined the object which has now been removed from the scene.

PSNI Inspector Will Brown said the driver had been left badly shaken by the ordeal.

He said: “The misguided and senseless actions of those responsible have caused disruption in the local community.

“Our thoughts are with the driver, who was, understandably, badly shaken by the ordeal.”

He added: “Thank you to all those who were impacted and to the wider public for your patience and co-operation.

“We are also grateful for the understanding of those impacted by the ongoing police activity in the Fireagh Road area.

“We are particularly keen to speak to anyone who was in the vicinity of the church on the Fireagh Road, or travelling between the Fieragh Road and Omagh police station between 9pm and 10pm last night.

“If you saw anything suspicious, or you have dash cam which may assist with our investigation, please get in touch by calling 101, quoting serial 2015 of 6/5/23.”

Alliance Party councillor Stephen Donnelly said the incident took place close to his home.

He said: “The thugs behind this incident are a danger to our community and must be urgently apprehended by the authorities, so I would urge anybody with any information to contact the police.

“Omagh refuses to bow to those who would have our lives ruled by fear.

“We never have and we never will.”

DUP leadership
DUP MLA Thomas Buchanan said the motorist would remember the incident for the rest of his life (Liam McBurney/PA)

DUP MLA Thomas Buchanan said: “My thoughts are with everyone involved but the motorist will never forget this for the rest of their days.

“It’s a throwback to the days when the IRA used to force people to become human bombs when targeting police and Army.

“It was wrong then and it’s wrong today.”

Dissident republicans, in particular the New IRA, are believed to have been responsible for a number of attacks and attempted attacks on police in recent months.

In February, Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot several times in an attempted murder bid which the police have blamed on the New IRA.

Police officer shot in Omagh
Dissident republicans were blamed for a gun attack on detective John Caldwell in February (David Young/PA)

Detectives also said they believed the group intended to use a number of viable pipe bombs, which were discovered in a Londonderry cemetery following a republican Easter commemoration parade, to attack the police.

In November of last year a police patrol vehicle sustained damage after being targeted by an explosive device in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

MI5 recently raised the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely, in response to an upsurge in dissident activity.

In 1998 the Real IRA detonated a car bomb in Omagh, killing 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, the worst single atrocity of the Northern Ireland Troubles.