Allister: Attempt to kill police shows folly of ‘lauding terrorists’

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An attempt to kill three police officers in Tyrone on Tuesday evening is a reminder that anyone involved in terrorism should never be “lauded as a statesman,” Jim Allister has said.

The officers escaped injury when their patrol was targeted in an explosive attack.

A device detonated in the Townsend Street area of Strabane shortly after 8.30pm.

While detectives said it was too early to attribute blame, suspicion will again focus on dissident republicans.

TUV leader Mr Allister told the News Letter: “Last night’s attack in Strabane was a reminder that terrorism hasn’t left Northern Ireland. Why would we expect anything else when a killer like Martin McGuinness is lauded as a statesman?”

He added: “Politicians and the media should reflect on how they have reacted to the death of McGuinness and how this sends a message to our society that terrorism can be excused and accepted.”

PSNI Chief Inspector Ivor Morton said it was “incredible” that no-one had been killed in the murder bid.

He also declined to be drawn on whether the attack was timed to coincide with the death of former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

“I can’t speculate on what was going through the minds of whoever decided to do this, what I can say is I have no idea what they thought they were going to achieve,” he said.

“It was absolutely utter madness.”

Townsend Street is close to Strabane town centre and adjacent to residential areas.

“It was a deliberate targeted attack on police officers,” said Mr Morton.

“It is incredibly lucky today that I am not talking about the death of police officers or members of the community when you consider where that incident happened and the location and the time of night.”

The chief inspector said the three officers were in “good spirits” despite the experience.

The Strabane attack has been condemned by Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

“Those who planted this explosive device intended to kill or cause serious injury. Their actions put all of our community in harm’s way and their murderous intent is not reflective of wider society’s desire for peace,” he said.

The Police Federation said those responsible “have no place in society”.

Chairman Mark Lindsay said: “The people who detonated an IED (improvised explosive device) near a police patrol have nothing to offer. They are fixed firmly in the past with nothing to offer a community that is trying to build a better here and now and a more positive future.

“They oppress and brutalise people and deserve to be ostracised, caught, convicted and given tough prison sentences.”

DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said: “We are all thankful that no one was injured in this latest incident, but there is a clear determination from those behind these attacks to drag Northern Ireland back to a time of violence and fear.

“There must be a united and resolute stand from right across the political spectrum to such activities. They can never be justified and that should be the message emanating from all those in a position of leadership within the Strabane area.”

In March 2009, following the murders of a PSNI officer in Craigavon and two soldiers in Antrim, Mr McGuinness described the republicans responsible as traitors to Ireland who had “betrayed the desires and political aspirations,” of the island’s citizens.