The PSNI is refusing to comment on reports that police personnel will only be allowed to go into certain areas of south Fermanagh by helicopter.

The Impartial Reporter understands that the decision was taken because of a high level of dissident Republican threat.

There was criticism of the police taking 13 hours to respond at the scene of an ATM robbery using a digger the week before last.

Following the criticism, PSNI Commander Michael Skuce appealed to dissident Republicans to get off the community"s backs and allow the police to do their job.

However, it seems that they have barely heeded his appeal. Last Friday, the Real IRA issued warnings of devices and firebombs in named Enniskillen shops.

On Saturday, the Continuity IRA telephoned a warning that devices had been left in the Moorlough area of Lisnaskea and also between Maguiresbridge and Lisnaskea.

It has also been reported that the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, regarded as being linked to the Real IRA has embarked on a recruitment campaign by putting leaflets through letter boxes in the Newtownbutler area.

The call on Friday afternoon named several shops in Enniskillen, but after searches nothing was found.

There has been local criticism of the police response, with accusations that the warnings were not taken seriously enough, particularly in the light of how much care was taken before moving into the Newtownbutler digger incident.

However, the police have refuted the criticism.

A spokesman said: 'Police take all bomb warnings seriously and respond in an appropriate manner.

'While some of the alerts on Friday and Saturday were designed to cause inconvenience, incidents that have taken place in Fermanagh over the past 15 months clearly indicate that terrorist groups are intent on attacking police officers. The incidents in which officers have been injured have been well documented.

'All these factors are taken into consideration by police in preparing a response, and the very real threat that is posed to officers should not be minimised,' said the police spokesman.

'On Friday afternoon, telephone calls warning of devices in Enniskillen and other parts of Fermanagh were made.

'Police immediately alerted the businesses that had been identified and staff carried out searches.

'Officers also searched premises and visited shops to talk to business owners.

Nothing was found in any of these searches,' the police spokesman added.

When asked if it was a change of policy to ask shop staff to search for potential bombs, the spokesman replied: 'Police have long-developed relationships with traders in terms of what to look out for and what to do should the need arise.

'The traders know their premises and stock and how to assist police in carrying out searches.

'There should not be a need for such searches by traders or police and those who create that need must bear any consequences,' he added.

The caller warning of devices left by the Continuity IRA said it was the second warning.

Police say that enquiries into other calls that bombs had been left in rural areas continue.

'A clear and present high level of threat to police officers exits in County Fermanagh and we bear that in mind in our operations,' the PSNI spokesman added.

Sources have said that the police will now not respond to incidents in certain areas around Newtownbutler by road, but only armed police personnel will be sent in by air.

However, the police spokesman said: 'Given the threat, it would not be appropriate to comment on the operational decisions we take in relation to the deployment of resources.'