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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK
Dissidents admit bomb attack
The army examined the area where the car was hit
The army examined the area where the car was hit
The dissident republican group the Real IRA has said it was behind an attack in which an explosive device was fired at a police car in County Down.

The officers escaped injury when the projectile apparently bounced off their car without exploding on the Killough Road near Downpatrick.

The police said it was detonated by a command wire at about 0200 BST on Wednesday.

Killough Road remains closed off about one mile from Downpatrick while the follow-up security operation continues.

Car was struck by an explosive device
Car was struck by an explosive device

Chief Superintendent Robert Robinson, district commander for the area, said: "In the last number of weeks we have had attacks on Downpatrick and Ardglass (police) stations, which were the work of dissident republicans."

The attack took place as the two officers were returning to Downpatrick police station after answering a request for assistance from a member of the public.

The device caused some damage to the vehicle but the driver was able to regain control and return safely to the station.

Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the attack.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Blair said the purpose of the attack was to undermine the peace process.

South Down MP Eddie McGrady
Eddie McGrady said attack was attempted murder

He wished the injured officers a speedy recovery.

The chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Professor Desmond Rea, called it a calculated and callous attack.

"Any attack on one single police officer is an attack on the whole body of policing," he said.

"The police exist to serve the wider community and they go on doing so and this makes it even more regrettable."

SDLP South Down MP Eddie McGrady said he "totally condemned" the attempted murder of the two police officers.

"This attack on the new Police Service of Northern Ireland is an attack on the entire community," said Mr McGrady, who lives in Downpatrick.

"It is a most serious development, putting in jeopardy the progress towards a peaceful society towards which we are all striving, and also our hopes of creating a new future for our families and children.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Condemned the attack

"The community must give the police service all possible assistance in order to remove the people who perpetrated this dastardly act."

Sinn Fein's Mick Murphy said the people who carried out the attack were opposed to the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

"They have little or no support and operate without either a mandate or indeed, a strategy to achieve political change," said the South Down assembly member.

DUP assembly member Jim Wells said he believed it would have been impossible for dissident republicans to operate in the area without the support of the Provisional IRA.

"It was either carried out by the IRA or one of their sub-contractors," he said.

Dissident republican paramilitaries opposed to the peace process have been behind a number of recent attacks on the security forces in Northern Ireland.

One of those groups, the Real IRA, was responsible for the 1998 Omagh bombing, which claimed the lives of 29 people, including a woman seven months pregnant with twins.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Conor MaCauley
"The officers escaped serious injury but were badly shaken"
Prime Minister Tony Blair:
"When they attack members of the new police force they attack the Agreement itself"
See also:

17 Jul 02 | N Ireland
13 Apr 02 | N Ireland
17 Dec 00 | N Ireland
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