Off-Duty Police On Alert Over Dissident Threats

Friday 11th February 2005

Police officers living in the Derry area have been placed on high alert amid a growing threat from dissident republicans, the Journal has learned.

PSNI personnel in the Waterside and areas around Eglinton were warned this week to remain vigilant after a massive security operation aimed at thwarting attacks on offduty members.

The force yesterday officiallly refused to give more details on their reasons for an increase in security in Derry earlier this week with checkpoints at border crossings, on main roads within the city and on the Foyle Bridge.

A spokesman did say however that there was a serious dissident threat and the force was responding to the threat.

On Tuesday night motorists reported British Army checkpoints at the Culmore Road border crossing and at Coshquin.

On both occasions the British Army seemed to be acting in support of the PSNI who were actually stopping the cars.

Later the same evening there were reports of a major joint PSNI/British Army checkpoint on the Limavady Road.

On Wednesday morning many motorists noticed a British Army/PSNI checkpoint on the Foyle Bridge which led to some delays.

There were also reports of helicopter activity in the Waterside area, again on Tuesday night.

The Journal can reveal however that the main alert centred on the village of Eglinton where British Army helicopters hovered well into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Police personnel living in the area were also contacted and told to step up their personal security at home by reverting to Troubles-style checks on their property and family vehicles.

There is also a real fear that dissident republicans may also have plans for a bomb attack on the village's part-time police station and patrols were stepped up there during the week.

Yesterday the PSNI claimed the heightened security was not in response to a specific incident but was part of a strategy to disrupt dissident republican activity in the area.

A spokesman however confirmed: "The public will be aware that a serious terrorist threat from dissident republicans exists in the North and West of Northern Ireland.

"Vehicle checks using army support is part of the PSNI strategy to prevent these attacks, which have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and cost people their jobs over the last few weeks."

The police also said that the increased security activity was not 'directly linked' to reports they received of two men acting suspiciously in the Eglinton area in the early hours of Wednesday morning

A police spokesman said yesterday they had received reports but that this was not the reason behind the heightened security measures which they claIimed were part of a wider strategy to thwart dissident republicans.

In recent weeks there has been an upsurge in dissident republican activity with firebomb attacks in Derry and Strabane as well as other parts of the North.

There is a fear now however that tactics could change to include bombings and/or gun attacks on security force personnel.

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