The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has informed officers and staff about a dissident republican group threatening to target their families.
Arm na Poblachta (ANP) issued a statement to the Irish News warning that relatives of police officers are now being treated as “legitimate targets”.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan confirmed on Tuesday that PSNI is “taking this threat message seriously” and have “reminded all officers and staff of their personal safety and security both on and off duty”.
“This is a sickening attempt to terrorise our officers and staff. The Police Service of Northern Ireland will not be deterred from delivering a visible and impartial policing service to all communities,” he said.
The development comes almost a fortnight after Det Chief Insp John Caldwell was shot by the New IRA outside an Omagh leisure centre when he off-duty.
Mr Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in Altnagelvin hospital in Derry.
ANP emerged in 2017 and is a small group that claimed responsibility for an attempted bomb attack outside a police station in Derry last November.
On Sunday ANP claimed to have left a device under an officer’s near the city. Nothing was found following a security alert.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents officers, described the threat as “despicable” and said it was issued by “republican thugs”.
“They are without purpose, other than to kill and maim officers and now, it seems, their families,” federation chairman Liam Kelly said.
“Officers work on behalf of everybody without fear or favour. And their families make big sacrifices so that officers can continue to safeguard communities and counter the reckless and profit-inspired gangsters who deliver misery.
“We must work together to rid Northern Ireland of the scourge of paramilitarism and gangsterism, and I would appeal for an all-out community effort to do just that,” Mr Kelly said.
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly called on ANP to “withdraw these disgraceful threats” and disband. “There is no place for these groups in our communities,” he said.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said no one should be threatened “because of their career and neither should their family”.
“I know the whole community will stand united against those who would seek to drag us back,” he added.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said the latest threat was “completely reprehensible,” adding: “It’s just hard to believe how they could stoop to this new depth.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long tweeted that the targeting of officers’ families was “utterly disgusting”.
“The sooner these people get off the backs of our community, the better. Thoughts and solidarity with courageous police officers and their families: shame on the cowards behind these threats,” she wrote.