Strabane search rifle ‘would have been used to kill police’

Superintendent Mark McEwan said attacks on police were futile
Superintendent Mark McEwan said attacks on police were futile

An assault rifle which was to have been used in an attempt to murder PSNI officers was found in Strabane, a police commander has said.

Police investigating dissident republican activity carried out searches in Melvin Road and Ballycolman estate in the Co Tyrone town on Tuesday.

In a statement Superintendent Mark McEwan said: “I have no doubt that it was in the control of people whose intent was to kill police officers.

“In doing so, they could also have caused harm to members of the community.”

Supt McEwan added: “They are intent on attacking police officers, but that type of attack is futile. We will not be deterred from our job of keeping people safe.

“Those who engage in this type of activity have nothing to offer the community beyond harm to police officers, or to members of the community.”

He said the operation was intelligence-led and it ended at 2am on Wednesday.

West Tyrone Ulster Unionist MLA and Policing Board member Ross Hussey said: “Clearly these dissident republicans are acting like a cancer in our society, attempting to bring death, murder and mayhem on to our streets.”

He added: “I am convinced that the weaponry used by these cowards was once in Provisional IRA bunkers.

“I am also convinced that the dissident Provos kept a cache of weapons and as these attacks continue I am more convinced of that fact.

“I will be asking the chief constable for the history of any weapons recovered to indicate when they came into the Province.”

Sinn Fein councillor Brian McMahon said: “Violent dissident republicans need to listen to the will of the people who don’t support their campaign and just want to get on with their lives.”