A republican armed group calling itself the ‘IRA’ has said that it launched a grenade attack on the PSNI earlier this month.
In a statement, the group’s Derry Brigade claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on police, dating from October 17 when it launched a grenade attack on a PSNI patrol in the Whitehouse Road area of the city.
A second device thrown at a PSNI vehicle in Charlotte Street in the Bogside district last Tuesday had failed to explode, it confirmed.
Although details of the earlier incident had not previously been made public, a spokeswoman for the PSNI said it had carried out a search of the area and warned people to “be vigilant”.
The new IRA group also claimed responsibility for sending a letter bomb to PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott and senior Derry-based officer, chief inspector Jon Burrows, last week.
The devices were discovered by staff at Royal Mail sorting offices last Friday.
The new armed group was formed last year after a merger of the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs and smaller republican groups. It has been increasingly active in recent weeks and has now claimed responsibility for four separate bomb incidents in Derry since the start of October. Earlier this month the group said it launched a mortar rocket into the grounds of Strand Road PSNI base in Derry.
The organisation’s Belfast Brigade admitted shooting dead drug dealer Kevin Kearney in north Belfast last month.
It is thought the same organisation may be behind a letter bomb also sent last week to British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers at Stormont Castle. First Minister Peter Robinson and a number of British officials were evacuated from the Castle to nearby Parliament Buildings in the incident.
Villiers, who was in London meeting US talks diplomat Richard Haass when the bomb was discovered, condemned the attack. “If those responsible think that this kind of criminal activity will further any agenda, then they are completely mistaken,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein said it “will not be intimidated” after a parcel addressed to an unnamed councillor was the focus of an alert at a postal sorting office on Tuesday. The item was later described as a hoax by the PSNI.
A package received at the Law Courts in Belfast created yet another alert on Wednesday, but turned out to be a false alarm, as did another item received by a member of staff at Stormont House, near Stormont Castle.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said the letter bombs were the product of “bitter and twisted little minds”. His tweet also refered to recent vandalism at churches, as well as graves at Carnmoney Cemetery including one belonging to infamous Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy.
He tweeted: “Letter bombs, attacks on places of worship, graves & orange halls are the offerings of bitter & twisted little minds & will further nothing.”
A device found in a loyalist area of south Belfast was described as an “elaborate firework” by a unionist councillor.
While the PSNI described the device found in the Village area as a viable bomb which was “defused” by a British Army bomb squad, local Ulster Unionist Party councillor Bob Stoker said he blamed local youths playing with fireworks.
“It seems more like an experiment but a very dangerous one for a young person to be messing about with.”
Meanwhile, a loyalist paramilitary who was found guilty of a series of pipe-bomb attacks again Catholic premises was freed this week with only a community service penalty.
Twenty-year-old Ryan McDowell admitted that he had terrorised the village of Ahoghill by helping to manufacture two bombs and another device used to attack St Paul’s Primary School and St Mary’s GAA club in Ahoghill, and Roger Casement’s GAA club in nearby Portglenone.
The judge who sentenced McDowell to do 100 hours’ community service and placed on probation for two years gave McDowell credit for his guilty plea, “good character”, “exemplary work record”, age, and an expression of remorse.