Local leaders and residents have reacted angrily to the “elaborate hoax” in a peaceful rural area near Ballykelly which sparked a two-day security alert.

The Carnamuff and Tirmacoy roads were closed off from Sunday evening until yesterday afternoon after a resident discovered a gas cylinder-type device with wires attached close to a roadside, the Journal understands.

Police moved quickly into the area, and it’s believed ATO carried out five controlled explosions on Sunday night. The police helicopter was also deployed. Forensic officers were on scene examining the area yesterday.

No-one was evacuated, but a resident said: “Everyone is taken aback. We’ve never had any trouble here. We thought we were living in peace, but obviously not.”

The man said he was unable to get to his liverstock in fields inside the cordoned-off zone.

“Everyone is just shocked,” he said.

SDLP deputy mayor of Limavady Orla Beattie said people in the area were more used to hearing about security alerts in Derry or Belfast, but not in an area of open countryside.

Speaking as army bomb squad officers attended the scene in the Carnamuff Road area, Colr. Orla Beattie said: “This is a peaceful neighbourhood where people live in harmony as good neighbours and give their full support to the democratic process. There is no support for importing the type of activities carried out by disaffected organisations that live in a past that failed everyone.”

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has said that those behind the alert need to explain their actions to the people of the area.

Mr Ó hOisín said: “This alert has caused disruption by closing the Carnamuff Road and the Tirmacoy Road and creating an inconvenience to the local people.

“The people who left it there must explain their actions to the local people. I cannot see how these types of action do anything but cause hardship to local communities.”

Limavady Area Commander Chief Inspector Sam Donaldson appealed for information about what was declared as “an elaborate hoax” and urged anyone with information about the incident to call Limavady police on 0845 600 8000.