Attempted rocket attack claimed as tensions increase

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The New IRA have claimed responsibility for an attempted mortar rocket attack on a PSNI base in Tyrone earlier this month.

An unfired rack of mortars was found close to the PSNI base in Strabane on Saturday morning, September 7, and defused by the British Army bomb squad.

In a brief statement, the New IRA warned it would continue to target members of the PSNI and British Army.

“We will continue to train and develop our engineering capabilities and we will attack the Crown Forces at times and places of our choosing,” it said.

The incident in Strabane is believed to be the first time the New IRA have deployed multiple mortars designed to detonate at the same time. The rocket apparatus was made up of three tubes, each containing a warhead packed with powder explosives.

SDLP policing Board member Dolores Kelly expressed surprise at the “increased capability” of the New IRA and warned “political instability” had increased the confidence of the IRA groups and their ability to attract “new and older members”.

Last week, PSNI Chief Simon Byrne revealed that he had dealt with more potential threats since he took up his post in July than the former police chief did during the previous 12 months. He also noted what he said were new types of “engineering and capability” being deployed by the IRA groups who he said were recruiting former Provisional IRA Volunteers.

However, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said this week that she has not seen a rise in conflict in the north of Ireland in recent months. Questioned about recent attacks, Ms McDonald said that it is not new, and that “small groups of people” were only trying to “disrupt the peace”.

“That’s not a new thing. That’s being going on since the peace process itself,” she said.

Meanwhile, loyalist spokesperson Jamie Bryson has warned that the unionist paramilitary UVF [Ulster Volunteer Force] are watching Brexit developments “very closely”.

The blogger told BBC ‘Radio Ulster’, a traditional mouthpiece for loyalist pronouncements, that anger among loyalists over Brexit could lead to violence. He said that any deal that threatened British rule in the north of Ireland would lead to mass protests or worse.

“I would presume that the UVF will be watching very closely what is going on at this point in time and I would say that they will be watching for anything that weakens the union and the constitutional position,” he said.

“Naturally they will be watching the developments because as it goes many people, probably, within a leadership position in the UVF who will be working very hard not to let that anger spill over amongst younger people and there’s a lot of young angry people.”

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