PSNI suspect New IRA behind bomb attack on police officer

First attack by dissident group since the arrest of its alleged leadership last year

PSNI vehicles block a road during a security operation after  a  bomb was found outside the home of an off-duty police officer in Dungiven, Co Derry, on Monday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

PSNI vehicles block a road during a security operation after a bomb was found outside the home of an off-duty police officer in Dungiven, Co Derry, on Monday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

The PSNI has said a “strong line of inquiry” is that the New IRA dissident republican group was responsible for planting a bomb outside the home of an off-duty woman police officer in Dungiven, Co Derry, on Monday.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan highlighted other attacks by the New IRA, including the murder of Lyra McKee in Derry in April 2019.

“If we think back to the bomb attack outside Derry courthouse in 2019, a group of young people narrowly escaping being caught up in the blast . . . almost to the day, two years ago, this group of wicked individuals murdered Lyra McKee in Creggan, ” said Mr McEwan.

“It is clear they are still intent on targeting police officers [and] they have a total disregard for other members of the community and who they hurt or harm in the course of achieving that objective,” he said.

United Ireland

So-called “dissident” republican groups reject the Belfast Agreement and instead use violence to achieve their aim of a united Ireland.

The New IRA is the most active of these groups in the Derry area, and is believed to have been responsible for a number of attacks in the northwest of Northern Ireland in recent years, including other attempts on the lives of police officers and a mortar attack on Strabane police station in November 2019.

Formed in 2012 following a merger between groups including the Real IRA and Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), it has been responsible for the murders of two prison officers – 52-year-old David Black, who was shot dead as he drove to work along the M1 in Co Armagh in 2012, and Adrian Ismay, who died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van in Belfast in 2016.

It is also involved in paramilitary-style shootings and assaults, one of which in 2016 was of 33-year-old Michael McGibbon, who bled to death after he was shot in the leg.

Alleged leadership

This is the first attack on the life of a police officer by the New IRA in more than a year and its first since the arrest of its alleged leadership last year following a joint MI5/PSNI operation, which included the bugging of two suspected New IRA meetings in Co Tyrone.

Ten people were arrested as part of Operation Arbacia, and are facing prosecution for offences which include directing terrorism, membership of a proscribed organisation and possession of explosives with intent to endanger life.

However, the New IRA still retains the capacity to launch attacks such as that on Monday and concerns have been raised that the group has been trying to expand in the area.

The local DUP Assembly member George Robinson said members of his party met police twice in recent weeks to “highlight our concerns that dissident Republicans were trying to exert their influence and recruit in the wider Roe Valley area”.

Given that dissident republicans were being “heavily monitored” in Derry city, he said, they were worried “they would attempt to extend their violent activities to this area and members of the police and security force family would be their targets.”