Detectives probing whether ‘New IRA’ used command wire to trigger bomb in attempt to kill police

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton has said detectives are investigating whether the ‘New IRA’ used a command wire to detonate an explosive device in an attempt to kill two police officers.

ACC Singleton said officers have noted what may have been a command wire in the vicinity of Mount Carmel Heights in Strabane where the attack took place on Thursday.

"It's early stages in terms of our investigation but certainly in terms of the location of the attack and previous incidents a strong line of enquiry would be the ‘New IRA’.

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“We have noted what could well have been a command wire in the location but again our forensic examination is yet to start as we continue to work to clear the scene,” he said.

ACC Bobby SingletonACC Bobby Singleton
ACC Bobby Singleton

The incident occurred shortly before 11pm on Thursday when an improvised explosive device is believed to have caused a blast that caused damage to a police vehicle being used by two officers who were patrolling in Mount Carmel as part of efforts to reduce anti-social behaviour.

"Our thoughts are first and foremost with the two police officers who were here last night serving their community. Fortunately they are left simply shaken by what happened last night but we are treating this incident as a credible attempt to murder those officers. It is an attempted murder investigation which we have now commenced,” said ACC Singleton.

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The police commander said there would be ‘a heightened police presence for some time’ in the area as a security operation continued.

The incident occurred near a derelict school on the way into Mount Carmel Heights.The incident occurred near a derelict school on the way into Mount Carmel Heights.
The incident occurred near a derelict school on the way into Mount Carmel Heights.
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"We will be continuing our investigation and I would take this opportunity to appeal to anybody in the Mount Carmel Heights area who might have seen anything suspicious, either last night, or in the days leading up to this to come forward and provide that information to the police, to your local police officers here in Strabane,” he said.

ACC Singleton was unable to provide details of the type of device used but indicated officers had ‘seen evidence of what we believe was a viable explosive device’.

The attack occurred less than 500 metres from Church View where a botched mortar bomb attack on Strabane police station in 2019 was blamed on the ‘New IRA’.

ACC Singleton said: “This was an absolutely senseless attack on our officers and it wont deter us in any way from what we need to do in the local community which is to work together with residents to provide a service that everybody can be proud of.”

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He said police were not complacent despite a recent reduction in the threat level from violent republicans.

“Obviously there has been a change this year in the threat level - move from severe to substantial - but really that moved from a situation where an attack was deemed to be ‘highly likely’ to ‘likely’ so this is perhaps not a surprise,” he said.

It was, said ACC Singleton, fortunate nobody was seriously injured.

“Fortunately the officers haven't been injured in this attack but it stands to reason - this attack took place in a busy residential area - it was absolutely reckless and any member of the public, never mind our police officers, could have been seriously injured as a result of this absolutely reckless act.”