‘If the cops think this attack was the work of the New IRA they are barking up the wrong tree’
PSNI chiefs have linked a terror attack to the so-called New IRA, but veteran republican sources in the Co Tyrone town say an even smaller micro group calling itself ‘Arm na Poblachta’ was responsible.
They claim that although young inexperienced volunteers carried out the attack, they are under the control of older and more sinister men.
Around 11pm on Thursday, police responded to reports of antisocial behaviour in the Mount Carmel Heights district of Strabane.
And as officers passed through the area a device hit their vehicle.
It bounced off before exploding nearby causing minimal damage to the police vehicle. Eye-witnesses say a flash and a loud bang were seen and heard in the area around the same time.
The police patrol returned immediately to their base in the town centre. And it was there that they discovered peripheral blast damage had been done to their vehicle.
Nevertheless, officers involved were said to be in a state of shock after the bungled attempt on their lives. It is believed all of the police officers are relatively young and inexperienced.
On Friday evening, Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the police were treating Thursday night’s terror attack as a “credible attempt to murder the officers involved”.
Following Thursday night’s attack, republican sources who spoke to the Sunday World said the so-called New IRA was no longer capable of mounting a credible terror campaign.
And they also insist relentless police activity has virtually closed the organisation down in Strabane.
“The New IRA is finished in Strabane.” said our source.
He added: “If the police believe it’s the New IRA operating on Thursday, then they are barking up the wrong tree.”
Our sources insist Thursday night’s attack was the work of the so-called ‘Arm na Poblachta’ – meaning Army of the Republic.
“These people have really nowhere else to go. No one wants them, so they end up creating yet another dissident organisation. It will survive until the cops infiltrate it and close it down.
“You have to remember, some of these people have been around dissident groups for over 20 years now. And most of them have yet to fire a single shot in anger,” said our source.
He added: “They really should be embarrassed about this. If it wasn’t so serious it would be like a scene from the film, The Life of Brian.”
It is believed the new breakaway republican group is based in Dungiven, Co Derry.
And last night, we were told the explosive device used in Thursday night’s attack was made there and smuggled into the north side of Strabane through the village of Donamana.
It is understood the leadership of Arm na Poblachta believe there is more public tolerance for armed attacks in Strabane than anywhere else.
Our source said Thursday night’s failed attack was the second such operation carried out by Arm na Phoblachta in Strabane.
He said the first one was last month, when it was claimed a pipe bomb was apparently thrown at a passing police car, but bounced off. It is understood a device was thrown at a police vehicle as it passed through an area known as ‘The Gap’, off the town’s Fountain Street.
But it too ended in dismal failure for the terror group when the PSNI stated it was treating the attack as a hoax.
“Police received a report of a suspicious device being left at Inisfree Gardens area of Strabane on Saturday October 15,” a police spokesman said.
“Following checks in the area, nothing untoward was found. And this is currently being treated as a hoax. Inquiries are ongoing.”
There had been widespread condemnation of Thursday night’s bungled attack on police.
First Minister Designate Michelle O’Neill slammed those responsible, saying they had “absolutely no regard for the local community or the people who live in it”. And DUP leader
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Attempts on the lives of police officers were wrong in the past and they remain wrong today.
But perhaps the most moving criticism came from Teresa Breslin who lost her twin brother Charlie when the SAS executed three young IRA volunteers in the ‘Top of the Town’ area of Strabane.
In February 1985, Charlie Breslin and two Devine brothers were returning IRA arms to a dump after they failed to lure security forces into an area off the Plumbridge Road.
As they neared the hide, a group of SAS men ambushed them, killing all three. The brutality of the operation sent shockwaves through the nationalist town.
Yesterday, Teresa Breslin took to Facebook to express her views on Thursday night’s attack.
“What’s happening to our town today is a bloody disgrace. And it’s something we never thought we’d go through again. Too many painful memories of our past Troubles.”
Teresa Breslin added: “I for one don’t want this for my grandchildren who are missing school today because of this.”