Northern Ireland bomb goes off outside police station
A car bomb has exploded outside a police station in Northern Ireland, the second apparent attack by dissident republicans at the same base inside a week.
Two people suffered minor injuries in the blast at Newtownhamilton police base in south Armagh late last night. Their injuries are not believed to be life threatening.
The explosion caused structural damage to two properties beside the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) station and scattered shrapnel over the surrounding area. A PSNI spokesman said masked men fired gunshots into the air before leaving the car at the police station entrance.
Last week a unit of the Real IRA left another car bomb outside the same police base. Army technical officers defused that device while villagers were evacuated.
The local PSNI area commander, Chief Inspector Sam Cordner, said last night's attack had been designed to kill police officers clearing the area.
"This was an attack designed to murder police officers and our response needs to be thought through and measured," he said. "These are people who are hellbent on killing police officers in this area."
He praised the work of firefighters who evacuated nearby residents: "Due to the swift actions of fire service personnel who were on duty in Newtownhamilton at the time loss of life was prevented," he said.
The bomb is believed to have been in a white Toyota Corolla. Detectives appealed for anyone who saw it to contact them.
A local Presbyterian minister claimed today that in certain parts of south Armagh there was no proper security presence. The Rev Kerr Graham, who lives two miles outside the village, said the police had been slow to respond to the latest attack.
His allegation was echoed by a local Ulster Unionist assembly member, Danny Kennedy, who said that the police were not present when the device exploded, "and had it not been for the excellent and very prompt work of local firemen then we could've had a very serious situation".
Ian Paisley Jr, a Democratic Unionist party member of Northern Ireland's policing board, said there appeared to be a "go-slow" policy regarding the police response to security alerts in certain parts of south Armagh. He said this was in part due to fears that republican dissidents were planning to ambush police patrols arriving at the scene of security alerts.
Northern Ireland's first minister, Peter Robinson, condemned those responsible for the latest bombing at Newtownhamilton. He said it was an "evil and cowardly attack" but would not stop Northern Ireland "continuing the road to peace".
The deputy first minister and Sinn Féin MP, Martin McGuinness, said the dissidents would "not break the will of the community".
Last weekend the Guardian revealed concerns within the security community in Northern Ireland about "an intelligence gap" within the PSNI regarding the dissidents. Security sources said that there was a dearth of information within the police about the growth in dissident violence.
Since the beginning of this year the Real IRA, Continuity IRA and Óglaigh na hEireann – three groups opposed to the peace process – have bombed MI5's regional headquarters and Northern Ireland's Policing Board headquarters, planted an under-car bomb that seriously injured a Catholic police officer and caused an explosion outside Newry court house. The Real IRA also killed a man in Derry they alleged was working for MI5 – a claim his family disputes.