Bomb left outside police station in Northern Ireland

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An explosive device was left inside a van parked outside a local police station in the small village of Aughnacloy, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. Army experts carried out a controlled explosion and have been examining the vehicle since. The van was left at about 10:00pm local time on Thursday night.

Police from the area have confirmed that around 350 residents in the area were evacuated and spent the night in three community halls. Since the report Aughnacloy is partially open and the A5 road is accessible, although there is little access into Aughnacloy itself.

The alert was raised during a telephone call to a newspaper office in Belfast. The caller used a recognised codeword and informed the newspaper the bomb will be detonated in an hour, which triggered an automatic response from police officers. Democratic Unionist Party councillor Sammy Brush said the evacuation seemed "fairly well organised" and there was "no panic", but it had to be completed within an hour to ensure the bomb could be safely disarmed and removed.

The bomb is thought to have been left by Dissident Republicans, which have been responsible for other similar attacks on official buildings this year. The bomb was left in an unmarked white Ford Transit van, which witnesses reported had the engine left running. The detonation device was believed to have been triggered, but the 300lb worth of explosives had failed to detonate. Brain Kee, the Aughnacloy PSNI Superintendent said, "If it had detonated it would have caused widespread devastation in the village and it's very likely that lives would have been lost."

Tom Elliott, Ulster Unionist Party MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, described the event as "deeply distressing." He went on to say that "this was an apparently large and viable device, which was planted with just an hour's warning, is deeply saddening for those who are committed to a peaceful future" and that such incidents were "becoming a familiar feature of life in Northern Ireland once again". Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Fein MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said those responsible for this act should "seriously reflect on what they are doing" and "[t]heir actions are no part of a campaign to bring about Irish unity and they have little or no popular support".

A car, thought to have been used for the get-away, has been found burnt out just over the border in the Republic of Ireland. Mr Kee and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin have asked for any witnesses to contact the Gardai or the PSNI immediately.