Police in Northern Ireland avoided a suspected bomb attack on officers which damaged a police vehicle while the occupants remained uninjured.
The attack happened shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday night in Strabane, a Northern Ireland town about 80 miles west of Belfast, the capital near the border with the Republic of Ireland. Officers were trying to investigate anti-social behavior at the time, the BBC reported.
Officers were not in the car at the time of the explosion and only discovered evidence of “some sort of explosion damage” after returning to the station to inspect the vehicle. Deputy Chief Constable Bobby Singleton spoke on BBC Radio Ulster and said officers were “shaken” by the experience.
“This attack took place in a busy residential area. It was reckless, and any member of the public, not to mention 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, culminating in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, ending most hostilities.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the blast “appears to have been a targeted attack on police” and the investigation “is still in its early stages”.
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“However, the attack, believed to be caused by an improvised explosive device, damaged a police vehicle and is believed to be an attempted murder of two police officers,” police said in a statement. Police called the device a “viable explosive”.
Politicians on both sides of the border condemned the attack. Preliminary suspicion fell on the New IRA, which has a small support base in Londonderry, about 14 miles north of Strabane, according to the Guardian.
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Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said any “attempt to harm members of the security forces or the PSNI would be absolutely shocking and must be condemned”.
“The terrorist objective was to cause heartache and misery and to return Northern Ireland to the Dark Ages,” said Liam Kelly, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland. “Nothing is gained by such a callous and hate-filled incident.”
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Kelly said police believe the terrorist threat is “substantial” and he urged all officers to “be extra vigilant”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.