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Derry cop was target of master bomber

NewsBy Paula Mackin
The scene where the bomb was found last week
The scene where the bomb was found last week

A master bomb maker who claimed the life of policeman Ronan Kerr was behind the latest dissident attack on the PSNI.

The Sunday World has learnt that the booby-trap bomb that was planted under the car of a serving police officer last week in Co. Derry was identical to that which killed the 25- year-old in 2011.

Ronan Kerr, a Catholic member of the PSNI, was blasted to death outside his home in Killyclogher in an attack that was claimed by the new IRA.

Security sources claim last week’s attempted murder of another officer was carried out by the same killer gang, two of which are based in Lurgan.

The dissident republican explosives manufacturer is based in the Republic of Ireland and has been described by police as “experienced and competent” in constructing the deadly devices.

The device was attached to car using magnets, in the case of Ronan Kerr the magnets used had been taken from a taxi roof sign.

Officers have previously linked the murder of Ronan Kerr to 17 other crimes committed the new IRA - among them two failed murder bids that seriously injured two other police officers, a car bomb attack on the Policing Board in Belfast and the murder of prison officer David Black.

The 53-year-old father of two was gunned down in a drive by shooting on the M1 in November 2012. The new IRA claimed he had been killed due to the “torture and degradation” of dissident prisoners in Maghaberry Prison.

Last week an Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device was found attached to a serving police officers car at Glenrandel in the village of Eglinton on the outskirts of Derry city after police were alerted to suspicious activity in the vicinity.

The wife of the officer targeted is also a member of the PSNI.

 

The Sunday World can reveal the murderous team travelled from Co. Armagh to Derry intent on claiming the officer’s life with the possibility of also claiming his wife’s.

According to dissident sources the deadly plot has been in the making for several months, with several ‘dummy runs’ being carried out before the killing spree was finally sanctioned by a IRA chief who is currently behind bars .

Indicative of the fractures within the world of dissident republicanism, details of the operation were not shared with active dissidents in the Derry area.

They were unaware that an IRA team from Armagh were on their way to cause carnage on their patch. They were not consulted on any level nor were they asked to provide a safe house for the assassins.

“The fact that no one in Derry knew about it says a lot. They never even consulted the boys on the ground down there to provide a safe house which is a dangerous move.

“It’s reckless because going to ground straight away can make all the difference, it’s the difference between getting scooped or not,” said one dissident source.

“It just goes to show the lack of respect and trust the IRA leadership has for the boys in Derry. They are not impressed with the leader down there, they have said publicly that he isn’t up for the job.”

Their disregard for the Derry dissidents has been underlined by their failure to flag up plans for the attack and is sure to stoke tensions between the different factions.

A number of people were arrested in the wake of the attempted bomb attack.

The suspects, aged in their late 20s and late 30s, and one aged 57 were detained just across the border in Ballybofey, Co. Donegal.

Three men were held at Garda stations in Letterkenny and Milford.

The 57-year-old was detained in Lurgan and was released after being questioned at Antrim Police station.

Superintendent Mark McEwan added: “This device had the potential to harm not only the officer but anyone in that residential area and those involved have shown a blatant disregard for human life.

“This is yet another example of the cowardly elements in our society who show no regard for the safety of local residents and the police officers who serve their community.”

Around 15 houses, including those with a number of elderly residents, were evacuated during the security alert.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), described the planting of the bomb as an act of madness.

“They didn’t care who else they killed or injured. Their only objective is to drag us back to darkness and hopelessness and I want to appeal to the community to help the police track down the culprits of this cowardly attack.”

There was also condemnation from both sides of the political divide.

First Minister Peter Robinson appealed for the community to unite against the terrorists.

“Everyone must stand united against those who would use violence and terror in our society and I unreservedly condemn those behind this incident.

“It is vital that those responsible are identified and brought to justice and I would urge anyone with information to pass it to the police.”

Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney said he was grateful no one was hurt.

“This is a city moving forward and the vast majority of people do not want these type of attacks and do not support them.”

Meanwhile two men have been charged in connection with an investigation into dissident republicans in Longford.

On Wednesday night, a vehicle was stopped and searched in Forgney near Ballymahon and a bomb was discovered.

The Army Bomb squad was called in and the device was made safe.

Four men were arrested and detained at Longford and Granard Garda Stations.

Two of them - aged 49 and 28 - appeared before a special sitting of the Special Criminal Court in Dublin where they were remanded into custody.

The other two men have been released without charge.