Police officers escape injury in Co.Fermanagh bomb blast

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An explosive device has denotated in Co Fermanagh, police sources have said.

Army bomb disposal officers and police were at the scene when the explosion happened at Wattle Bridge close to Newtownbutler on Monday morning. No one was injured.

Bomb disposal officers had been in the area at the weekend responding to reports that a device had been left there.

That item was ultimately declared a hoax but it is understood another device exploded close-by on Monday when a bomb disposal team attended to review the scene.

Page 2: 11:52

It is understood the Army team of Ammunition Technical Officers (ATO) and police were fortunate to escape without injury.

The finger of suspicion will again point to dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

There will be suspicions the hoax device was part of a booby trap plan to bring security forces into the area prior to the detonation of the viable device.

Page 3: 11:57

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew condemned those responsible.

"This morning's bomb attack in Wattle Bridge was totally wrong," said the Sinn Fein representative.

"Thankfully no-one was injured in this incident but we could have been dealing with a situation where people were seriously injured or worse.

"Those responsible for this incident have nothing to offer society and need to end these actions immediately.

"Anyone with information on this should bring it forward to the PSNI."

Page 4: 12:13

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed the explosion.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: "At around 10.35am this morning police officers at the scene have reported an explosion in the area of the Cavan Road at its junction with the Wattlebridge Road.

"There are no reports of any injuries and officers are investigating the cause of the explosion.

"Police had received a report that a suspect device had been left in the area of Wattle Bridge on Saturday evening. The area was secured by police and a full clearance operation began on Sunday morning.

"The initial report received by police indicated that a device had been left on the Wattlebridge Road however the explosion occurred on the main A3 Cavan Road.

"While this investigation is at a very early stage I am of the firm belief this was a deliberate attempt to lure police and ATO colleagues into the area to murder them.

"Although this device was intended to kill police and army personnel the fact that it was placed on a main road the result could well have been devastating for anyone in the immediate vicinity."

Page 5: 12:15

Mr Martin continued: "This attack was indiscriminate and reckless and, whilst there is no doubt in my mind that police responding to this call were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the explosion.

"We are extremely fortunate that the actions of officers who were first on scene meant that there was not serious injury or death.

"I wish to acknowledge and commend the bravery and commitment of those officers and army personnel at the scene of this attack.

"I would like to again thank the community for their patience and co-operation throughout the security operation as we seek to ensure their safety.

"The area around the scene will remain closed for some time while our officers conduct their investigations and ensure the area is safe.

"I ask that anyone who may be able to help our investigation and identify the perpetrators of this sinister and potentially murderous attack to please come forward.

"You can call us on 101 or if you would prefer information can be given anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

Page 6: 12:20

SDLP Fermanagh councillor Adam Gannon said: "Murdering or maiming police officers achieves no goals and it is a crime that has no support in Fermanagh.

"No-one here wants to see members of our community killed in their name.

"Those responsible are criminals threatening our community and they have to be caught."

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly paid tribute to officers who worked over the weekend to make the area safe.

"They continue to work hard to keep communities like this safe and today's incident is another reminder of the serious threat that they operate under.

"There is no place for this in the society we've created."

She said the SDLP will be meeting with the chief constable later this week and will be raising the security threat in border communities as an urgent matter.

Page 7: 12:32

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne tweeted: "The bomb attack in Fermanagh this morning is a sinister development. A clear and deliberate attempt to murder @PoliceServiceNI officers. I strongly condemn these actions and express my sincere thanks to both the Officers and Army personnel for their work in securing the area."

Page 8: 12:35

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: "My thoughts are with the police officers / ATOs who escaped injury in Wattle Bridge. A reminder of the bravery of our security forces. The threat from republican terrorists still exists. It's time they left the stage & allowed everyone to move on. This was a clear attempt to kill."

Page 9: 12:36

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson condemned the attack.

"This is sadly typical of the kind of modus operandi of the dissident republican groups," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"They have tried this before in recent times where they have planted hoax devices to lure the security forces into an area where there is a booby trap bomb in place and it is designed to kill police officers and potentially soldiers as well.

"Every reasonable person in the community will condemn this and see it for what it is - part of an ongoing campaign by dissident republicans to murder police officers in Northern Ireland."

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