Elderly people evacuated from homes after mortar found in graveyard

A home-made mortar (file pic)
A home-made mortar (file pic)

Pensioners in their eighties were forced to leave their homes in the middle of the night after a mortar-type device was left in a nearby graveyard in Northern Ireland.

Police evacuated residents after the weapon was discovered in Strabane, Co Tyrone, on Saturday evening.

A senior Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer blamed those with an agenda of "violence and destruction" for the disruption.

Ulster Unionist Stormont Assembly member Ross Hussey said: "No doubt the people responsible would claim to be republicans fighting to 'liberate' Ireland.

"In reality they are a criminal gang of bully boys and fascists whose only achievement this weekend was to force local people, some in their eighties, to leave their homes in the middle of the night and seek refuge in church halls or with friends and relatives."

The police operation began in the early hours of Saturday after reports that a device had been left in the Townsend Street/Cemetery Road area.

A number of elderly people had to leave their homes and the graveyard was closed for most of the day. It was later confirmed as a mortar-type device, police said.

Supt Mark McEwan said: "We would like to thank the local people who have been inconvenienced by this operation for their patience and understanding and we are working to get them back into their homes as soon as possible.

"The blame for the disruption, however, rests with those individuals or groups who appear determined to pursue an agenda of violence and destruction which can only be to the detriment to all in our community.

"I would continue to appeal to everyone to work with us to reduce the threat these people pose and to keep people safe."