Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Police in Northern Ireland have arrested two men in connection with Saturday night’s car bomb in Derry city.
The suspects, both in their 20s, were detained early yesterday after what police called an “unbelievably reckless” attack outside a courthouse in the heart of the city.
The New IRA, a dissident republican group, was the main line of inquiry, the assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton told a media briefing near the scene.
Police said they received an approximate 10-minute warning before the bomb exploded outside a courthouse on Bishop Street at 8.10pm, giving limited time to evacuate hundreds of people from a nearby hotel, the Freemasons’ hall, youth club and other sites. There were no casualties.
A pizza delivery vehicle hijacked a short time earlier is believed to have been used in the attack. Witnesses said they heard a loud bang and saw a large plume of smoke.
A police forensics team was examining the scene yesterday, with cordons sealing off access to the charred wreckage of the vehicle.
“At around 7.55pm on Saturday night officers on patrol in Bishop Street spotted a suspicious vehicle and were making checks when, around five minutes later, information was received that a device had been left at the courthouse,” Hamilton said in a statement released earlier yesterday.
“We moved immediately to begin evacuating people from nearby buildings, including hundreds of hotel guests, 150 people from the Masonic Hall and a large number of children from a church youth club. The device detonated at 8.10pm.”
The attackers failed to kill or injure anyone, said Hamilton. “The people responsible for this attack have shown no regard for the community or local businesses. They care little about the damage to the area and the disruption they have caused,” he added.
No one claimed responsibility but suspicion fell on dissident Irish republicans opposed to the peace process.
A spate of bomb attacks in Derry in 2015, including a device found under a police officer’s car, was blamed on dissident republicans. They caused no casualties.
The Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley, expressed concern and urged anyone with information about the attack to contact the police or Crimestoppers.
Bradley said: “This attempt to disrupt progress in Northern Ireland has rightly been met with utter condemnation from all parts of the community. The small number of people responsible have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland’s future and will not prevail.
“Our voices across the political spectrum are united. This is intolerable violence and we want to look forward and build a peaceful future for all in Northern Ireland. ” Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said the attack was an attempt to drag Northern Ireland back into violence and conflict.
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