BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Mortar shells exploded near a police station in Castlederg outside Belfast Thursday night, injuring at least four people, damaging dozens of homes and plunging the provincial town into darkness, police said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility.
A Belfast police spokesman said one officer and a mother and her two little girls were taken to a hospital after the attack on the police station about 60 miles west of Belfast, but none of the injuries was serious.
About 100 homes also sustained 'at least superficial' damage and about 250 families were evacuated, the spokesman said. The force of the blast severed power lines, plunging the town into darkness and telephone communications also were disrupted.
The spokesman could not confirm reports that six mortar shells were fired and that three unexploded shells were found in the vicinity of the police station.
'We are awaiting reports from the ATOs (army technical officers) at the scene,' the spokesman said. 'It may be daylight before we know the full extent of the damage ... In a situation like that you don't go around with a notebook making detailed damage assessments.'
Casualties may have been limited because most people were indoors when the attack occurred about 7 p.m., he said.
Residents said they heard a loud explosion, and the attack was first believed to have been a car-bomb blast.
The outlawed Irish Republican Army has launched many attacks on police stations with home-made mortar launchers made of metal tubes or drainpipes and fired from the backs of trucks.
In February, 10 police officers were killed in a mortar attack on the police station at Newry, near Ulster's southern border with the Irish republic. It was the worst single attack against the police in Northern Ireland since violence flared in the province in 1969.