BELFAST (Reuters) - Gangs of Irish nationalists hurled petrol bombs and other missiles at police sent to a County Armagh town after a hoax bomb alert, and another device exploded nearby, police said on Sunday.
The second device, which police said was clearly intended to kill officers, exploded after they responded to a telephone call in the town of Lurgan claiming a device allegedly fired at a police vehicle failed to explode.
A 1998 peace accord largely ended more than three decades of sectarian violence in which over 3,600 died.
But splinter groups continue a sporadic campaign of violence against the deal, which established a power-sharing administration between mostly Catholic Irish nationalists and Protestant loyalists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
It was during a lengthy security operation throughout Saturday that a bomb blew up, although the officers escaped injury.
“This was a clear and unequivocal murder attempt,” Superintendent David Moore said in a statement.
Houses were evacuated and a residential area sealed off for many hours. Cross border rail services between Belfast and Dublin were disrupted because the track passes through the area.
Lurgan has been a focus of activity by nationalists still fighting for a united Ireland.
The attacks followed two nights of rioting in Belfast this week when Protestant loyalists reacted angrily after police stopped an annual Orange Order parade from passing a Roman Catholic estate.
Editing by Padraic Halpin/Hugh Lawson