By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
Police in Co Tyrone have said a bomb attack in Strabane was an attempt to murder police officers.
Two officers were targeted in Mount Carmel Heights in the town 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.
We can confirm that an ongoing security alert in the Mount Carmel Heights area of Strabane appears to have been a targeted attack on police shortly before 11pm last night, Thursday November 17th. pic.twitter.com/9zz6Nu8lLG
— Police Derry City and Strabane (@PSNIDCSDistrict) November 18, 2022
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.”
Taoiseach Micheál 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”.
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 said: “More than 1,000 people living in Mount Carmel Heights are experiencing immense disruption this morning as police investigate a security alert in the area.
“This is one of Strabane’s biggest residential areas and there is currently no way in or out as the scene is cordoned off.
“Local people have reported hearing a loud bang late last night which police are now investigating. This disruption means that nurses, teachers and other public service workers are unable to get to work this morning.
“I am continuing to speak directly with the local PSNI and would urge people to co-operate with police so that we can secure the area and have the cordon lifted as soon as possible.”