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Continuity IRA may have fired shots at civilian helicopter in Fermangh, PSNI says

The dissident group were said to have claimed to have fired upon a police helicopter last week.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: PA Images

POLICE IN THE North have said the Continuity IRA may have fired upon a civilian helicopter, rather than a police helicopter, in an incident reported last Thursday. 

The PSNI said today a search operation is ongoing into a report last Wednesday of persons said to be representing the dissident group leaving a suspicious device in the Wattlebridge Road area of Newtownbutler in Fermanagh. 

The Continuity IRA later claimed it had fired shots at a police helicopter in the area.

It has been established that a civilian helicopter was in the area at the time, but the PSNI said today no damage was caused. 

Chief superintendent Andy Freeburn said: “I can confirm that the Police Service helicopter was not deployed in the Wattlebridge area at any time on Thursday 14 January. A fixed wing aircraft was deployed to conduct searches on this date. Following extensive enquiries we have established that a private helicopter was travelling through the area on Thursday.

“If there is any truth to the claims from dissident republicans, we believe that this civilian helicopter is the aircraft that they shot at. Fortunately the helicopter did not sustain any damage and its occupant was unaware of any shots being fired.

“Those involved have shown their absolute disregard for the lives of ordinary people. The fact that this alleged attack was intended for police, makes it no less heinous. Police officers safeguard our communities every day in the face of this threat and continue to do their utmost to build a safer society.”

Gardaí are assisting the PSNI in the operation in Newtownbutler, which is near the border with Monaghan. 

A number of road closures are in place, including on the Cavan Road and Wattlebridge Road.

This evening, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said the incident highlighted the “utter stupidity and recklessness of these republican terrorists”.

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“This latest incident where republicans claimed they left a device in the area and then shot at a civilian helicopter is crazy,” she said.

“Regardless of the debate of whether they did or did not target a helicopter who in their right mind would even think about shooting down a helicopter over a populated area? The devastation is unthinkable.”

With reporting from the Press Association

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Sean Murray

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