Belfast: Dissidents behind riot during hoax bomb alert

Six police officers were injured in a riot believed to have been orchestrated by dissident republicans.

Blast bombs, petrol bombs, stones and other missiles were thrown at the PSNI as they dealt with a security alert in Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Seven families were evacuated from their homes at Lake Street and train services were disrupted while Army Technical Officers dealt with a suspicious device close to the railway line early yesterday morning.

The device, which was abandoned inside a wheelie bin, was declared a hoax.

PSNI Chief Inspector Jason Murphy said the officers, who had been deployed on foot, suffered minor injuries when a blast bomb was thrown over a house.

“The injuries are relatively minor, fortunately. But that was much more from luck,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“The intelligence picture is that dissident republicans are seeking to draw my officers into attack. The events suggest there is a degree of orchestration around this.”

This is the latest in a spate of attacks blamed on dissident republicans in Co Armagh recently. Last month, a pipe bomb was thrown at Lurgan police station and a car bomb caused extensive damage after it was detonated outside Newtownhamilton PSNI station.

Chief Inspector Murphy, area commander, blamed a “hardcore” element for the violence and urged the community to oust them.

He said: “We are talking about a group of eight to 10 hardcore individuals in terms of those actively involved. But they are hiding within a group of 25 to 30 individuals. I know that members of the community know these individuals and I appeal to them to come forward to us confidentially to discuss what they saw and who they saw, so we can take action.”

There were no arrests, however police are examining video evidence to identify individuals.

“We have taken the unusual step of deploying video evidence officers to this riot.

“The video evidence will be analysed to see who we can identify. If we can identify the people involved we will take swift action to deal with them.”

Last month, a deliberate hoax was left near the police station in Lurgan on two separate occasions in an attempt to draw police into a trap.

Chief Inspector Murphy added: “Everybody is telling us they want the normal policing service that everyone else in Northern Ireland is able to enjoy.

“But unfortunately when these circumstances arise it is very difficult to move forward in terms of normal policing.”

Residents ‘fed up with disruption’

Residents in Lurgan have criticised the length of time taken to deal with the alert.

Seven families, including a number of pensioners, were moved from their homes at Lake Street while Army bomb experts examined a device that was declared a hoax.

Street disorder erupted when a gang of up to 20 youths hurled blast bombs and petrol bombs at police.

The residents were told to leave their houses just after 6am and were not allowed to return until 1.45pm yesterday.

Theresa O’Loughlin (80), who has lived in the area for 19 years, said: “To have policeman come knocking at my door at 6.15am over a bunch of thugs is a disgrace. Why can they not go down and wreck their own area instead of coming up here to do it?”

Mrs O’Loughlin, who had to stay with her daughter, said she would not move again if there was another alert.

SDLP MLA for the area Dolores Kelly said: “I saw tailbacks of people going into Lurgan to drop children at school and so on. People are fed up with it.”

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