PSNI: Threat from dissidents remains severe

PSNI Superintendent Mark McEwan, Derry City & Strabane District Commander.
PSNI Superintendent Mark McEwan, Derry City & Strabane District Commander.

A senior PSNI officer has said that the threat to police officers from dissident republicans in the North West remains severe.

Supt Mark McEwan outlined a number of incidents in recent months that demonstrated the threat.

The Derry City & Strabane District Commander, said: “Since 1st August 2014, we have witness 15 bombing attacks, seven of which have been directly targeted at police officers. A number of other attacks have included bomb attacks against other members of our community, from right across our community.

“We have also witnessed a number of hoax devices that have been designed to disrupt community life, to terrorise people and to draw police officers into situations where they could be attacked.

“Over the same period we have seen 15 shooting incidents across this district. Most of those have been carried out against members of our community and six people have suffered life-changing injuries because of paramilitary-style attacks.

“It is important to note some of the latest incidents we have had in Strabane. The most recent was the discovery of the component parts of a pipe bomb. All the component parts were there, it could quickly have been made active and the people who have in their control this type of device are clearly intent on causing harm or serious injury to members of our community. I am delighted to be able to say we have taken this aj other type devices off the streets.

“ Prior to that we had the discovery of a firearm type in the Ballycolman area of Strabane. Our initial assessment of that was that it was a fully-functioning firearm; [however] subsequent forensic examination has revealed that it was a replica. The look, weight and feel of many replicas is very close to a real firearm. I have no doubt that these type of items are used to cause terror within our community It also has to be recognised that they are used to draw police officers into situation where they can be subjected to secondary-type attacks. For these reasons we have to approach these incidents with the caution and care as if it was a real firearm until we clear that are we do not understand what we are dealing with. There is a certain amount of disruption but it is incumbent on us, when we are doing this, to keep all in the community safe, including our own officers.

“It is important to note that this came within days of a mortar-type attack being foiled in this town – a device set up to attack a passing police patrol.

“Again, that was set up with the clear intent to kill or seriously injure police officers. This type of device we saw earlier in the year in similar circumstances in Derry City.

“I took the opportunity to look at the profile of some of the police officers in this district. They come from all parts of the community; they range in age from early 20s to their 50s. They are family people, some of them have children; they are brothers, sisters, sons and daughters to other members of our community. The police officers are part of our community. They have chosen to-do a job that is about keeping people safe. They have chosen to go out there to keep people safe from assault, deal with domestic abuse, and look for missing people – some of whom are vulnerable.”

“Because they have chosen that as a career, there is an element within this community who feel that id is OK to try and mount attacks to try to kill our seriously injure them. In doing so they have no regard for the safety of other people in the community and in fact totally disregard that safety whether it is in terms of people’s lives or disrupting that community or causing fear and intimidate. They also directly attack other members of our community.

“It is because of that I want to appeal to the wider community to come forward with any information that they may have about these types of activities to enable us to bring the perpetrators to justice. I also want to ask is this the type of activity that people within our community want to tolerate? I do not believe it is. The vast majority of people in this district have come out and condemned these attacks. Because of that I am appealing for information to help us keep the community safe.”

Supt McEwan went on to categorise the current dissident republican threat against police officers as “severe”, but said police officers “would not be dissuaded from keeping people safe”.