Army deployed in Lurgan after bomb

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Military personnel were involved with searches in Lurgan last week following the bomb attack on police, it has been revealed.

Army units were deployed in the Victoria Street area to search land at the old Clendinnings factory site.

The soldiers were called in by the PSNI as ‘back-up’, according to the Irish News.

However while neither the PSNI nor the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the army were deployed, neither organisation denied it.

The units were spotted accompanying police during the follow-up searches.

The personnel were not wearing standard army fatigues but dark grey boiler suits similar to those worn by police and hard hats.

The military vehicles were also painted white.

All five men arrested by police probing the attempted murder of officers in Lurgan were released unconditionally last week.

Two men, aged 28 and 46, were released from custody on Saturday after they were questioned about the discovery of several devices in Lurgan weekend before last.

Officers had responded to a call reporting an unexploded device however, as they were searching the area, a second device went off.

Another three men who were arrested on Thursday were also released unconditionally last Friday evening.

Nationalist politicians had voiced anger at the move to deploy troops during searches of Derry last week.

Policing Board member and Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly described it as ‘unacceptable’ adding that it made it harder for ‘political leaders to achieve genuine policing in the community’.

Though rare since the army withdrew from the north following the ceasefires 20 years ago, the military has been deployed on a number of operations.

In November last year members of an elite army unit were involved in an operation in Newry during which 10 people were arrested for paramilitary-related offences following a lengthy surveillance operation.

The army officially downgraded its status in the north seven years ago as part of the demilitarisation process with the last General Officer Commanding (GOC) Major General Chris Brown leaving the north. Instead a brigadier was put in charge, following perceived advances in the peace process.

At the time it was said that the army would continue to provide bomb-disposal assistance to the police since public order and security would now be a matter for the PSNI and that any future dissident republican threat or loyalist activity would be dealt with entirely by the police.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “Security in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the PSNI.

“The armed forces have specialist capabilities in terms of high risk search and explosives disposal which - just like everywhere else in the UK - is, and has been available to police as and when required.”