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Police in British-ruled Northern Ireland said on Tuesday they suspect that dissident Irish republican militants planted a booby-trap bomb found in the car of a part-time police officer.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said the bomb had been found on Monday in a car outside the family home of the female officer in Dungiven, a town near the northwestern city of Londonderry. The bomb was defused overnight.

“What is really distressing here is the terrorists placed the bomb at the rear of the car, directly at the point where the victim’s three-year-old daughter sits,” PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan told journalists.

“While the investigation is at an early stage and detectives are keeping an open mind, a strong line of inquiry is that this attack was the work of the New IRA,” Assistant Chief Constable McEwan said.

The New IRA is one of a small number of active militant groups opposed to Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal. It has been behind some of the sporadic attacks that have continued, including the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019.

Some 3,600 people were killed in the conflict that began in the late 1960s between mainly Protestant unionists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and predominantly Catholic nationalists, who want to be part of a united Irish republic.

In recent weeks police have also found themselves under attack in street protests by pro-British loyalist youths angry at trade restrictions with the rest of the United Kingdom put in place this year after Britain left the EU.

Loyalists have also accused police of bias against their community, an accusation the police service has repeatedly dismissed as unfounded.

Brandon Lewis, the British cabinet minister responsible for Northern Ireland, tweeted: “The attempted murder of this police officer is absolutely abhorrent. I completely condemn the actions of those involved.”

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