POLICE in Northern Ireland have warned of the potential of dissidents launching attacks on their officers in Londonderry on Easter Monday.

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the force has received “strong” intelligence that dissidents are planning to launch terror attacks against officers on the bank holiday.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said that officers would be moved to frontline duties to counter any potential threats, in a policing strategy that he said had not been used in years.

He said this reflected the “exceptional circumstances” ahead of this Easter weekend.

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Speaking in Belfast, Irish deputy premier Micheal Martin condemned the threat of a terrorist attack as “criminality in its worst form” and said it was “very evil people who are contemplating this”.

The warning comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s much-anticipated visit to Belfast on Tuesday.

Biden’s trip, which will also include events in Dublin, Co Louth and Co Mayo, will have a strong focus on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which falls on Easter Monday.

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MI5 had recently raised the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

This followed the gun attack on senior detective John Caldwell, who has been left with life-changing injuries.

Police have blamed the New IRA for the attack.

“It’s going to be a really significant weekend for the PSNI,” Singleton told a press conference in Belfast.

Easter Monday is the day dissident republicans traditionally mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising rebellion against British rule in 1916, with a parade set to take place in Londonderry.

When asked about whether guns or explosives could be used to target police in Londonderry, Singleton said: “We’ve seen that in the past and, on that basis, we have to be prepared for that and we will be prepared for all eventualities on Monday.”

Briefing the Policing Board in Belfast, the Chief Constable said the overall tone in both the operational threat and the resourcing picture facing the PSNI is “stark and sombre”.

He said: “We are now dealing with a severe terrorist threat, which means that an attack is highly likely right across Northern Ireland.

“The style of attack that we are dealing with and trying to frustrate is gun attacks and bomb attacks on these people by a small number of determined dissident terrorists.

“What this means is that working with our security partners, there is an assessment about an increase in their intent and capability to cause serious harm to us in the next six months.”

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Byrne said the increased threat came at a time of “unprecedented policing demand” in Northern Ireland.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd said there was no specific intelligence that the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement was acting as an additional motivation for dissident republicans to launch attacks.

“We plan for the worst and we hope for the best to be quite frank, we will respond to the intelligence as it develops, we have no such intelligence that would support that at the moment,” he said.