Semtex explosives once owned by the Provisional IRA (PIRA) was used in a weekend rocket attack on police officers in the North, it was revealed today.
Deputy Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Paul Leighton said two officers targeted on Saturday night in the border town of Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh, were lucky to escape alive.
The officer confirmed Semtex – believed to have been destroyed when PIRA decommissioned weapons in 2005 – was used in the latest murder bid blamed on dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.
Mr Leighton said the rocket attack was the latest in a series of attempts by dissident groups to kill police officers.
“It is significant in the sense that there was Semtex in the explosive charge,” he said.
“It did not go off but there was Semtex there. Where it came from I don’t know. It is similar to devices that used to be used in the province by other groups.
“But when it (Semtex) was passed over to different groups, how it came to be in their possession, I don’t know at this point in time.”
The Deputy Chief Constable said three officers were on patrol in Main Street, Lisnaskea shortly after 11pm on Saturday when the attack was launched.
Two officers standing on the street and a third colleague sitting in a police vehicle nearby were targeted when republicans armed with an improvised rocket launcher jumped from a passing car and launched the device.
Mr Leighton said the officers dived for cover and while taken to hospital with severe shock and minor injuries, only escaped with their lives because the main explosive charge in the rocket did not detonate.
He said renegade republicans have been responsible for seven other murder attempts of police officers in the last year.
Semtex, a prominent element of the PIRA arsenal when its campaign of violence was at its height, was believed to have been destroyed when in 2005 independent assessors declared that the Provisional movement had decommissioned all its weaponry.