Rioting has continued in Lurgan, County Armagh for two days after PSNI police staged a raid on Wednesday on what they claimed was a dissident republican bomb factory.
Four men, aged between 22 and 46, were arrested, including three in a scrapyard near the staunchly republican Kilwilkie estate where a PSNI officer said that “suspected bomb making materials” and “a quantity of fertiliser” had been discovered. It was claimed the Continuity IRA were planning a major bomb attack.
Riot police clashed intermittently with local youths hurling bricks and paint bombs for two nights. A fire started on Wednesday near the yard where the material were found No one was injured, although police vehicles were damaged.
The nearby Belfast-Dublin railway line was blocked again last night, with a burning barricade set up on the line.
The four men, including a well-known local businessman, are still being held under the Terrorism Act and are being interroged at Antrim PSNI station.
Minister for Justice Michael McDowell yesterday branded whichever organisation was responsible as “fanatics” who were determined to disrupt the peace process.
Speaking at the Garda college in Templemore, County Tipperary, he said: “They believe in some mad way that this will advance the cause of a united Ireland,” Mr McDowell said.
Last week an attack on Strand Road police station in Derry was blamed on dissidents. Armed men hijacked a van and ordered the driver to take the vehicle, which contained an incendiary device, to the station. He abandoned the van and raised the alarm.
Sinn Féin condemned those responsible for the Lurgan bomb.
“The discovery of this device has ensured disruption and inconvenience for local people and has caused anger within the community,” said local assembly member John O’Dowd.
“These groups have little or no support within this community and they do not have a strategy to deliver Irish unity and independence.
“It is incumbent on all of us in political leadership to make it clear that politics can work and that politics can deliver change.”
In February, the Continuity IRA said there would be “no decommissioning, no ceasefires and no surrender”. It claimed responsibility for leaving explosive devices outside police stations in Belfast and East Tyrone.
Three of the men arrested in Lurgan yesterday are currently at the centre of a legal row.
Their legal team went to the High Court in the middle of the night to get assurances that they would not be secretly recorded by the PSNI during consultations with their clients at Antrim police station.
The privacy request followed the arrest of solicitor Johnny Sandhu in February after it was alleged the PSNI had secretly taped conversations between him and clients.
In the early hours of yesterday morning a device was thrown at a house in the Avenue Road area. It landed just in front of the property, where it exploded. No one was in the house at the time.