Northern Ireland

Strabane father says sons 'could have been murdered'

A Strabane father has said his two sons could have been murdered in a knife attack outside a pub in the town on Thursday.

"One of my sons has over 200 stitches in his stomach and back," he said.

Four people, including the owner of the bar, were stabbed during the attack.

Police on both sides of the border are believed to be trying to track down a group of men from the travelling community from England.

It is thought that a group of about 20 men tried to get into the pub.

When they were refused the bar owner, two staff and another local man were stabbed.

They were all taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry for treatment.

The father of two of the men aged 26 and 28 - who didn't want to be identified - said his sons were slashed with knives about the stomach and chest. One required an extensive number of stitches.

"He has 50 or 60 internal stitches. He has a lot of stitches around the heart and lungs. The older boy's wounds are an inch and a half deep," he said.

"We are lucky we are not going to a wake today."

One of those stabbed suffered a serious hand injury. He has been transferred to hospital in Belfast.

The stabbings happened at Abercorn Square on Thursday at about 2130 GMT.

Chief Inspector Andy Lemon said it was a shocking attack.

"These people are not from Strabane, they are not locals," he said.

"They have come into the area following a very successful St Patrick's Day parade. They tried to force their way into a local bar and when they were refused entry, they produced knives."

The inspector said he was appealing for anyone who saw what happened to contact police.

"We could very easily have been looking at a murder on the streets of Strabane," he said.

SDLP councillor Eugene McMenamin said there had been a festive mood and the incident happened "out of the blue".

"There has never been a knife culture in the area. As long as I have been an elected representative, I have never experienced such an incident," he said.

"People in the town are totally shocked this morning because this does not fit in with the town they know or what they experienced when they were out at St Patrick's Day festivities."