Dissident republicans blamed for mortar bomb attack

Dissident republicans were blamed today after a suspected mortar bomb was fired at a police station in Northern Ireland.

The device missed the barracks in Craigavon, Co Armagh, and caused no injuries. A year ago a policeman was shot dead by the Continuity IRA not far from the scene of last night's attack.

Dissidents were behind last week's murder of Kieran Doherty, 31, in Londonderry as well as a number of other attacks on police stations.

Sinn Fein assembly member John O'Dowd said: "This attack was wrong and should not have been carried out. I would challenge those who claim to speak politically for these factions to tell the republican and nationalist community exactly how these sorts of activities, or indeed the recent murder in Derry advance the cause of a united Ireland one iota.

"The fact is they don't. A peaceful and democratic path to Irish unity exists and it is the path that the vast majority of republicans are now on."

A viable mortar device was found close to Keady police station, south Armagh, recently.

In March last year Pc Stephen Carroll was shot dead by the Continuity IRA as he answered a call for help in Craigavon.

The amount of dissident activity across Northern Ireland has been on the rise.

The police station targeted yesterday is in the Brownlow area of Craigavon, a sprawling urban centre of housing estates and roundabouts. It was blown up in 1993 by the Provisional IRA with a nearby health centre and school. There are also business premises in close proximity.

Police received a report yesterday afternoon of a suspicious device on the nearby Tullygally Road. As a search was planned a device was fired at the station.

Officers have since received reports of the device again being placed on the Tullygally Road, which has again been closed and the alert continues today.

Parts of Craigavon became hotspots for dissident activity with regular bomb alerts in nearby Lurgan.

Mr Doherty, 31, was bound and shot by the Real IRA in Londonderry on Wednesday night. He had served time in prison in the Irish Republic as a Real IRA member and his family claimed he had rebuffed MI5 attempts to recruit him.

On Monday night a 250lb car bomb caused damage to the wall and security hut at Newry courthouse, Co Down.

Democratic Unionist MP David Simpson said: "It is certainly very reckless coming on the back of what's happened in Keady (in south Armagh) and Newry."

The Tullygally Road device was later declared a hoax.

Police came under attack from a crowd hurling heavy masonry in another part of Craigavon last night.

Two police vehicles were damaged and officers fired three projectile rounds in the Drumbeg estate area.

Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson was informed.