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Bomb detonates near Northern Ireland border

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An explosive device described as an attempted trap for security forces detonated in a village on the Northern Ireland border on Monday, but failed to injure anyone.

Police and bomb disposal experts had been working in the area of Newtownbutler over the weekend since receiving an initial report about a suspect device on Saturday.

“I am of the firm belief this was a deliberate attempt to lure police and ATO (Anti-Terrorism Officer) colleagues into the area to murder them,” Stephen Martin from the Police Service of Northern Ireland said in a statement.

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Martin later told reporters that two Irish republican dissident groups, the New IRA and the Continuity IRA, “would be a very good starting point for the investigation”.

However, no group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast which hit near a busy road in County Fermanagh.

Increasing terrorist activity

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He added: “It’s fair to say their level of activity has increased this year.”

Concerns have grown that the possible return of a hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit could increase security tensions in the once war-torn province.

Martin said violent attacks had grown in recent months and called on politicians to take action to heal enduring divisions in society.

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Martin added that uncertainty over the impact of Britain’s departure from the EU and Northern Ireland’s suspended government had coincided with the attacks and other tensions.

“We’ve six attempted attacks to murder police officers this year … When you add all that up, we do believe that there is a time for reflection and a time to question what type of society we want to live in here,” Martin told a news conference.

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“Many of us … sense that things are becoming more entrenched and progress that has been made is slipping back a little bit.”

“Terrorism of this nature is a societal problem,” he said. “We shouldn’t take our peace for granted.”

Violence continues after Peace Accord

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Three decades of conflict known as “the Troubles”, in which more than 3,500 people were killed, largely ended in Northern Ireland with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Violent incidents have continued, however.

In April, journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by Irish republican dissidents during rioting in Londonderry.

Police blamed nationalist militants for a similar unsuccessful attack in the town of Craigavon last month and a bomb discovered under an officer’s car in Belfast in June.

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“I strongly condemn the cowardly actions of those responsible for this bomb attack, which could have had devastating consequences,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in a statement.

Britain’s Northern Ireland minister, Julian Smith, said he was closely following developments.

Police blamed nationalist militants for a similar unsuccessful attack in the town of Craigavon last month and a bomb discovered under an officer’s car in Belfast in June.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain will leave the European Union with or without a transition deal on October 31. The border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which will become Britain’s only land frontier with the EU, remains the most contentious part of negotiations.

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