01/03/2010

Riots Blight Same Area As Police Murder

Less than 12 months on from the death of the first PSNI officer to be killed by terrorists, a hoax device was used at the weekend to lure police officers into the same area of County Armagh where he died.

The late constable's fellow officers were attacked near the Drumbeg and Meadowbrook estates in Craigavon on Saturday in what the PSNI said was an attempt to injure or kill officers.

Stephen Carroll was shot dead by the Continuity IRA in Craigavon last March with the area remaining a thorn in the side of the PSNI amid attempts to introduce true community policing to the troubled area.

Just a week after a series of bomb alerts disrupted the nearby town of Lurgan, the North's police were attacked with flagstones and other missiles and three police vehicles were damaged.

Officers fired three baton rounds at rioters during the attack - a move which has been heavily criticised by a local republican politician.

Police said the attack may also have involved shots being fired at the local police station which was targeted, but not hit, on Saturday evening.

Chief Inspector Jason Murphy, told the BBC that the attack near the estates on Saturday night was "disgraceful".

"Missiles, masonry had been thrown at the vehicles and actually individuals approaching the vehicles with iron bars, trying to break the windows with iron bars, and get access to my officers," Mr Murphy said.

"I have got no qualms in saying this was an attempt to kill or injure my officers, no doubt at all."

The Police Ombudsman has been informed and is investigating the incident.

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd condemned the attack, but said police should not have used plastic bullets.

"Up until last night the local PSNI had adopted a responsible approach of securing the area, working with the local community and waiting until daylight to remove the hoax device.

"That appeared to be the approach being adopted last night also until, at some stage in the evening, tactics where changed and the PSNI moved in.

"The riot that resulted and the unacceptable use of plastic bullets could and should have been avoided."

SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly also condemned it as a carefully orchestrated riotous attack on police officers.

"We are opposed to the use of plastic bullets and it is deeply regrettable that they were used by the police. However, the main issue here must be the extreme violence which was used against them and the main force of condemnation should and must be aimed at the evil peope responsible for this violence.

"Reports of a mortar attack are still being checked, but very clearly there was a carefully orchestrated operation to draw police in and then attack them.

"Police commanders are saying it was a clear attempt to kill their officers and I see no reason not to believe them. Huge chunks of masonry were thrown at close quarters and attempts were made on break into police vehicles with iron bars.

"We have got to separate the evil handful who plan these attacks from the misguided young people who get caught up in riot situations. There is a heavy responsibility on parents to know where their children and young people are and to make sure they are not involved in anything which could lead to injury or death."

However, Upper Bann MP David Simpson said: "Whether or not there was a device credible to do damage, it dragged the officers into a riot situation.

"There could have been serious injury or loss of life."

On the same night, a number of petrol bombs were thrown at police vehicles in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of Belfast.

Police said they attended a disturbance on the Stewartstown Road close to the Bell Steel Road at 9.20pm.

(BMcC/GK)

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