Northern Ireland: Police ‘lucky to be alive’ after fake bomb lures them to explosion

‘I am of the firm belief this was a deliberate attempt to lure police and ATO colleagues into the area to murder them,’ deputy chief constable says

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin speaking after an explosive device was detonated at Wattle Bridge
Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin speaking after an explosive device was detonated at Wattle Bridge

A bomb has exploded in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland after security forces investigated a hoax device.

Army bomb-disposal officers and police were searching the area when the explosive device detonated at Wattle Bridge, close to Newtownbutler and the border with the Republic of Ireland, on Monday morning.

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

That item was ultimately declared a hoax, but another device exploded close-by when the bomb-disposal team attended to review the scene on Monday. Police were also in attendance, patrolling a security cordon.

It is understood the army team of ammunition technical officers (ATOs) and police were lucky to escape without any injuries.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said: “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.

“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.”

Michelle Gildernew, MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, condemned those responsible.

“This morning’s bomb attack in Wattle Bridge was totally wrong,” the Sinn Fein politician said.

“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.”

Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, 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.”

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Dissident extremists continue to target members of the security forces in Northern Ireland.

Last month, an explosive device detonated on the Tullygally Road in Craigavon, County Armagh, as police attended a call-out from a member of the public.

Commanders said it was a set-up to lure officers into the area ahead of the murder bid.

In June, a serving police officer had a lucky escape when he found a booby-trap bomb attached to the underside of his vehicle in a golf club car park in east Belfast.

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