Warning follows attempt on Friday to murder police officers responding to a call in Armagh
The threat of being ambushed by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland could slow the police response to calls for help from the public, officers have warned.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland said officers would have to exercise even greater levels of caution before setting out to deliver assistance.
The warning follows the attempt by republican renegades on Friday to murder police officers responding to a call from a member of the public at around midnight in Craigavon, Armagh.
A loud bang was heard in the Tullygally Road area of the town, and an explosive device was found later. Some residents were asked by the police to leave their homes.
Mark Lindsay, chair of the federation, said the security alert was “a vicious attempt to murder colleagues who were responding to a call from a member of the public”.
He added: “It was a come-on, a deliberate attempt to lure [officers]to a place where republican terrorists could mount their ambush. The officers in the vehicle escaped injury or death, and for that the police ‘family’ is hugely grateful.”
He added: “Officers operating in particular areas already exercise great caution – they are forced to risk-assess and evaluate, and that, unfortunately, can lead to delays in responding to genuine calls from the public.
“No one expects officers to leave themselves vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and that must mean the very real prospect of slower response times. Our communities deserve a service free from the threat that is posed by terrorist murderers.
“When [members of the public]call the police for help or intervention, they have a rightful expectation that officers will get to them as quickly as possible. Regrettably, and for very prudent and sensible reasons, that is not always possible.”
Lindsay said politicians and community leaders must work with police to rid their communities of “thugs and criminals”, adding: “For the sake of the vast number of decent people, they should up their game considerably.”
Police said that a short time after the bang was heard, they were contacted by a Belfast-based newspaper. It had received a call claiming a device had been fired at a police patrol but had missed its target.
Det Supt Richard Campbell said: “The entire incident was staged in order to bring police into an area where another deadly and unstable device awaited.
“Although the explosive was designed and set up to look like a fired mortar, it was in fact a booby-trap device. In other words it was designed to explode if moved or touched.”
He said the attack had been indiscriminate. “Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that first responders were the target, the reality is that anyone could have been caught up in the carnage.
“We are extremely fortunate that the swift actions of those officers who were first on scene meant that there was not serious injury or death.”