Abandoned bombs represent ‘unfinished business’ – ONH claim responsibility

September 2, 2013

Two mortar bombs found close to the village of Cullyhanna were abandoned when their target failed to appear and represent “unfinished business”, the dissident republican group, Oghlaigh na hEireann, has claimed.

The alert was sparked on Tuesday when a call to the Samaritans claimed devices had been left in the area.  Eleven homes were subsequently evacuated following the discovery of two mortar-type devices in the Bog Road/Lisleitrim Road area.

After a complex and protracted security operation, which closed a number of roads and caused major disruption in the area, the families were finally able to return to their homes on Thursday night.

The rocket launchers, understood to be viable and primed, were discovered concealed in undergrowth in a field.  An initial warning about the devices had been received by a number of news outlets, including The Examiner, just over two weeks ago.  This initial warning was vague and gave incorrect information, meaning the devices could not be located and properly dealt with at the time and led to a fortnight of uncertainty and “unnecessary stress” for residents of the rural village.

Police believe the warning two weeks ago may have been an attempt to lure officers to the area for a planned attack.

Tuesday’s discovery of the two 8ft mortars led to a major security operation involving police and army technical officers who carried out a controlled explosion at the scene shortly before 1pm on Wednesday.  Troops using sniffer dogs and metal detectors searched hedges and culverts, leading to the evacuation of nearby homes on the Sheetrim Road.

The South Armagh Brigade of Oglaigh na hEireann has since claimed responsibility, stating the devices were “of a type not used before.”  The rockets were believed to have been made using technology from Islamic militant group Hezbollah to launch a surface-to-air attack on police.  Oglaigh na hEireann added that the attack was abandoned when the “initial target” failed to appear and ominously warned of “unfinished business.”

The discovery of the devices was met with widespread condemnation, with Newry and Armagh MP, Conor Murphy saying the community in Cullyhanna had been put under “unnecessary stress”.  He said there was a “sense of bewilderment” in the area and “certainly a great degree of worry.”

“The people of the area have had two weeks of worry – when kids are off school and playing in fields – that a viable device was left in their own area. I think there’s a sense of relief that this operation is over and nobody has been injured.

“A community was placed under unnecessary stress, police resources were tied up trying to deal with it and the end result is that the community is relieved it has been dealt with, but angry that they were put in that situation,” he said.

SDLP MLA for the area, Dominic Bradley, said those responsible were “reckless” and added that there was “palpable anger” in the local community.

“The people of Cullyhanna, south Armagh and indeed the people of this island want to be left in peace. Instead those responsible still live in some warped existence of the past,” Mr Bradley said.

Ulster Unionist Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy, utterly condemned those responsible and described the discovery as distressing.

He said: “I am concerned at both the capability and the intent of those sinister elements behind this attack and it simply reinforces how important it is that local people give total support to the police and provide them with every assistance possible as they attempt to protect and serve the entire community.”

His party colleague, Deputy Mayor Councillor David Taylor, said the discovery was an extremely worrying and sinister development, adding that those responsible “were completely reckless in their actions with absolutely no regard for the sanctity of human life”.

Newry and Mourne Area Commander of the PSNI, Chief Inspector Davy Beck, thanked the community in Cullyhanna for their patience and support during the alert.

“We know only too well the death and destruction such devices can cause and there is no doubt that the intention of those behind these devices is to kill police officers who serve this community on a daily basis” he said,

“We also know how inaccurate and uncontrollable these type of devices are and, to leave them in an area accessible to the public shows the total disregard these people have for the local community in Cullyhanna. Their actions can only be described as ruthless and mindless.”

The Chief Inspector confirmed a full investigation has been initiated and appealed to anyone with information about the incident to contact police.