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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 7 April, 2020
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10-year-olds escape injury as dissident grenade fails to explode in Derry

PSNI officer was talking to two children when the bomb “fell at his feet” but failed to detonate.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

TWO BOYS IN DERRY were lucky to escape with their lives after a grenade thrown at a police patrol failed to detonate, a PSNI commander said today.

Nobody was hurt when the military-grade device was thrown last night at officers investigating reports of a bomb in a hard-line Irish nationalist district of Derry.

The city’s police commander, Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin, said IRA dissidents lured his officers into the Catholic district by making a false bomb warning.

He said one policeman was talking to two boys aged under 10 on their bicycles when the grenade “fell at his feet.” He said three other police officers were nearby.

“If that had exploded … it is highly probable that I would be talking today about fatal injuries to both a police officer and to two young boys,” Martin said.

Police have been on alert for likely attacks by IRA splinter groups because of Thursday’s elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly and several days of ballot counting afterward.

Assembly elections

Dissidents living in Catholic areas typically attack during elections to show their opposition to Northern Ireland’s Catholic-Protestant government and wider peacemaking efforts. Dissidents killed a Catholic policeman, 25-year-old Ronan Kerr, with a booby-trap bomb under his car 2 April at the start of the election campaign. He was the first officer killed since 2009.

A key goal of Northern Ireland power-sharing is to build Catholic support for the traditionally Protestant police. A decade of police reform has already transformed the force into 30 percent Catholic, and Sinn Fein — long supportive of IRA attacks on the police — has officially supported law and order in Northern Ireland since 2007.

But the dissidents reject Sinn Féin’s decision to help govern Northern Ireland and seek to undermine the IRA’s 2005 moves to renounce violence and disarm. They have made attacks on police operating or living in Catholic areas a top priority.

SDLP MP Mark Durkan said the dissidents’ threats were making it hard for police to do their jobs in the toughest Catholic areas of the city. He said they had to go carefully when responding to reports of crimes for fear of walking into an ambush. He said if locals wanted better law enforcement, they must help police identify and imprison the dissidents living in their midst.

Police said they made no arrests following last night’s attack but would seek forensic evidence from the intact grenade. They declined to specify the manufacturer or origin of the weapon.

- AP

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