Republican communities punished by raids, evacuations

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A protest has taken place in Strabane, County Tyrone following a week of intense Crown Force activity which has seen front doors smashed and families forced out of their homes by late-night raids and bogus ‘security’ alerts.

Saoradh said it backed the protest at Strabane PSNI base over what it said was an attempt to demonise the republican community in the area.

A series of arrests have continued in Derry and Tyrone in the wake of a New IRA attack on a PSNI patrol last week. Six republicans arrested in Strabane have been released without charge.

“Not one shred of evidence was put to any Saoradh members during hours of gruelling interrogating by Crown Force personnel and British Agents,” the party said.

Special militarised PSNI units were sent to Coalisland in east Tyrone, in Newtownbutler in Fermanagh and in Portadown in Armagh to carry out ‘alerts’ and raids on the homes of nationalists and republcains.

But the most intense response was in Strabane, where drones were deployed by the PSNI in an unusually desperate bid to spy on people in the area.

A controlled explosion was carried out on a bin in which a bomb squad destroyed one of the PSNI’s own torches, left by mistake at a house during a previous raid.

Homes were evacuated in the Innisfree Gardens area and the district was sealed off after the discovery of the torch, described as a “suspicious object” on Monday evening.

A British army bomb squad carried out the controlled explosion on the wheelie bin outside the house. Roads were sealed off, residents were forced from their homes for several hours while the military specialists were deployed.

Both the SDLP and Sinn Féin representatives denounced the PSNI’s overreaction, but there were calls by Saoradh for greater concern for “the Republican families, children and pregnant women who have found their doors sledgehammered in, homes ransacked, children traumatised and forced from their homes whilst their loved ones have been hauled off to Interrorgation centres”.

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