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Dissident republicans behind bomb attack in Fermanagh, police say

The incident happened at Wattle Bridge, close to Newtownbutler Credit: UTV

Police believe either the Continuity IRA or the New IRA were behind a bomb attack in County Fermanagh.

Army bomb disposal officers and police were at the scene when the incident happened at Wattle Bridge close to Newtownbutler on Monday morning. Officers reported the explosion at around 10.35am.

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

The initial report received by police indicated that a device had been left on the Wattlebridge Road however the explosion on Monday occurred on the main A3 Cavan Road when a team of Army Technical Officers (ATO) and police attended the scene.

The first device was declared a hoax.

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Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin described the attack as 'indiscriminate and reckless'.

"We are of the belief that this attack has been carried out by dissident republican groupings. The two who have been most active this year in Northern Ireland is the Continuity IRA and the New IRA and I think one of those groups would be a very good starting point for the investigation.

"The Continuity IRA have been present for a long time but I think it is fair to say that their level of activity has increased this year."

The Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009.

The New IRA shot dead journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry in April this year.

The incident happened at Wattle Bridge, close to Newtownbutler Credit: UTV

DCC Martin added: “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," he said.

"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.

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“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.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin speaking to the media on Monday Credit: Press Eye

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

Chief Constable Simon Byrne said he 'strongly condemns' those behind the attack calling it a 'sinister development'

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Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew condemned those responsible.

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

She added: "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."

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DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was 'a clear attempt to kill'.

In a tweet, she said: "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 and allowed everyone to move on. This was a clear attempt to kill."

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."

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Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Rosemary Barton described it as a 'cynical' attack.

In July, an explosive device detonated on the Tullygally Road in Craigavon 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 an under-car booby trap bomb attached to the underside of his vehicle in a golf club car park in east Belfast.

It is believed dissident republicans were behind both attacks.

Officers are investigating the cause of the explosion on Monday.