Police are treating an explosion in Strabane as the attempted murder of two officers (Picture: PA)
Three terror suspects are being held in Northern Ireland after police were targeted in a bomb attack.
Two officers narrowly avoided injury when an explosive device was detonated near their car while it was on patrol in County Tyrone on Thursday.
Police have previously said they were pursuing a ‘strong line of inquiry’ that the New IRA might have been involved.
Three men – two aged 36, one aged 28 – were detained under the Terrorism Act after a number of raids in Strabane last night.
The blast caused a major security alert in the area which affected more than 1,000 residents and meant children could not get to school.
Police have said they have discovered what could be a command wire for the improvised explosive device during follow-up searches.
PSNI assistant chief constable Bobby Singleton earlier said the location of the incident and previous attacks made the involvement of the dissident republican splinter group a possibility.
He added: ‘Our thoughts are first and foremost with the two police officers who were here (on Thursday) night serving their community.
Army search teams were drafted in to comb the area for evidence (Picture: PA)
‘Fortunately they are left simply shaken by what happened last night, but we are treating this incident as a credible attempt to murder those officers.’
Mr Singleton continued: ‘We have seen evidence of what we believe is a viable explosive device.
‘Fortunately the officers have not been injured in this attack but this attack took place in a busy residential area, it was absolutely reckless and any member of the public, never mind our police officers, could have been seriously injured.’
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said any attempt to kill officers was ‘reprehensible’.
She tweeted: ‘Those involved in this attack will not succeed in dragging society backwards.
‘We must all unite against these reckless actions. We must keep building the peace and moving forward.’
Senior officer Bobby Singleton said a member of the public could easily have been hurt in the attack (Picture: PA)
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: ‘Attempts on the life of police officers were wrong in the past and remain wrong today. There is always an alternative to violence.
‘Northern Ireland will not be held to ransom by fringe elements intent only on bloodshed and dragging our society backwards.’
In a separate operation Northern Irish police discovered eight firearms, a large quantity of ammunition and three pipe bombs in Belfast.
Investigators said searches were conducted after a long-running investigation into another paramilitary group, the East Belfast UVF.
Four searches were carried out at a number of residential properties and one business premises in the lower Newtownards Road area, and four men aged 34, 47, 49 and 51 years, were arrested.
Two vehicles, balaclavas and UVF emblems and flags were also seized during the searches.
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