Police attacked by youths during Creggan searches

Petrol bombs have been thrown during disturbances at a security operation in the Creggan estate in Londonderry, amid reports of even very young children being present.

Police, who were undertaking a major operation in the area to target the New IRA’s bomb-making activities, have appealed to parents to ensure their children are not involved in disorder.

A 52-year-old has been arrested under the Terrorism Act as part of the investigation.

The search operation has since ended and police say a “considerable amount” of material has been removed for further examination.

PSNI District Commander Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “The main priority for police is the safety of the local community, however we strongly believe that sinister elements connected to violent dissident republicans manipulated local youths into attacking police and disrupting today’s search activity.

“It is also our understanding that they attempted to disrupt local services into the area, but were unsuccessful despite some localised disorder.”

Chief Superintendent Jones added: “The vast majority of the public welcome the action we are taking against those who are causing serious harm to the community and it is detestable that our young people are being used in this manner.

“We are grateful for the support of our partners who continue to engage with young people

“We would once again ask that parents and guardians be mindful of where their children are and what they are doing.”

Earlier, detectives said the operation was “looking specifically at the New IRA’s bomb-making activities, as well as the group’s storage of explosive devices and equipment".

Speaking about Operation Ledging, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said it was “one of a number of ongoing investigative elements” relating to the New IRA.

“Today’s arrest and examination of a house is a significant development, in a long term enquiry, into this aspect of the gang’s activities,” he said.

“Previous investigations have shown time and time again that the New IRA has a callous disregard towards who it might hurt or what it destroys," DCS Murray said.

“We have witnessed on numerous occasions that they are willing to put the lives of local people at risk in their reckless haste to carry out bombings and shootings.

“Most starkly they have a chilling indifference to hiding lethally dangerous weapons and bombs in places where local people can easily stumble across them, unaware of the potential horrific consequences of touching them.

“We have witnessed this all too often in recent times when they have left explosives and weapons near to children’s play-dens and in the middle of housing areas – places that should be sacrosanct and safe.”

DCS Murray also explained: “We have previously stated that Operation Arbacia is a longer term investigation that will look into every aspect of the activities of the New IRA in its entirety.

“Today’s search and arrest is evidence that we have various operations complementing Operation Arbacia and today does not mark the end of them but rather a continuance.”