Police have been attacked by petrol bombers during “orchestrated disorder” near a polling station in Northern Ireland.

They attended a security alert involving a suspicious device close to a school in Londonderry being used for the European election vote when they were targeted.

Three male youths were arrested.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: “There is no doubt my officers were lured into the area this evening and that those involved in this orchestrated disorder had one aim in mind – to attack police.

“This was all the more reckless by the fact that one of the petrol bombs hurled at police landed in close proximity to young children who could have been left seriously injured, or worse.

“This security alert is the second this month in this area, impacting the same community that was disrupted on May 2 during local council elections.

“It cannot be lost on anyone the disruption this has caused in the local community, let alone the potential for serious harm that could have been caused.”

Last month journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead in Derry by dissident republicans during unrest in the city.

On Thursday evening officers were attending a security alert in the Moss Park area of the city.

They came under attack, with five petrol bombs thrown at them.

One was in the Glengalliagh Park area where there were a number of children close to where it landed, police said.

Officers recovered six petrol bombs, along with 20 paint bombs and two crates of empty bottles.

Police subsequently arrested two teenagers aged 17 and a boy aged 12 in connection with the disorder.

They are in custody assisting with enquiries.

Police said later ammunition technical officers had carried out a controlled explosion on the suspicious device, which had been declared an “elaborate hoax” and taken away for forensic examination.

Moss Road has been re-opened, and Mr McCalmont said: “I would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding during the course of this policing operation.

“The blame for the inconvenience, however, lies squarely with those individuals who left this close to a local school, which was being used as a polling station this evening. Those responsible have absolutely nothing to offer local people or society in general.

“I would like to appeal to anyone who has information about this incident to contact police at Strand Road on 101, quoting reference number 1639 of 23/05/19. Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”