Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Masked men order lorry driver to take 'bomb' in wheelie bin to Derry police station

Security alert underway after lorry abandoned

The scene on the Buncrana Road after masked men ordered a lorry driver to take bomb to Strand Road police station. Pic Lorcan Doherty/Presseye
The scene on the Buncrana Road after masked men ordered a lorry driver to take bomb to Strand Road police station. Pic Lorcan Doherty/Presseye

A security alert is underway after masked men ordered a lorry driver to take a bomb to a Londonderry police station.

Two masked men approached a driver as he was making a delivery to Ederowen Park in the city at around 12.30pm on Wednesday.

An object - thought to be a wheelie bin - was loaded into the back of the lorry.

The driver was told the device was a bomb, and ordered to take it to Strand Road police station.

It's understood he then abandoned the lorry on the Buncrana Road.

The foiled attack has been blamed on dissident republicans.

The area has now been closed off.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood described those behind the attack as "cowards".

"The driver was making deliveries in a residential area - Galliagh. The men put a wheelie bin in the lorry and told him it was a bomb - before telling him to drive it to Strand Road," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He drove it out of the residential area, not far away."

"This is the act of a group of cowards. We have seen this may times in the past. These groups force someone else to carry their bomb.

"We have seen the devastating impact that has had on the city. They are cowards and they have nothing to offer Derry or Ireland."

He praised the "brave actions" of the driver.

Staff have been advised to leave St Columb’s College and people have also been moved from business units in the Pennyburn Industrial Estate, police said.

Last year masked thugs threatened a van driver and told him to deliver a suspect package to Strand Road police station in Londonderry.

The station has been targeted several times over the last few years.

Forensic officers examine the scene where a car bomb exploded outside the Strand Road police station in 2010
Forensic officers examine the scene where a car bomb exploded outside the Strand Road police station in 2010

In 2010, widespread damage was caused after a 200lb device exploded outside the station in Londonderry.

A taxi driver had been hijacked in the city shortly and forced to drive his car to the station after a device containing home-made explosives was loaded on board.

A telephoned bomb warning told police the device would go off in 45 minutes, but it detonated in half that time while the area surrounding Strand Road station was still being evacuated.

In October last year, police also found a mortar device in the Lawrence Hill area close to the station.

Wednesday's foiled attack comes as a PSNI report showed some 69 bombs exploded or were defused last year.

The threat from dissident republicans also remains high.

Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI), said: "We are determined that terrorism will not succeed but there is a quid pro quo here, the Government have to ensure that we have the resources and they are failing us."

The latest data also shows the number of bombings in Northern Ireland last year was higher than a decade earlier.

But, overall the security situation has improved - with fewer deaths and shootings.

A PSNI report said: "A significant threat still remains as evidenced by the increase in the number of bombing incidents in 2013/14 compared with 2004/05 and the continued use of paramilitary-style shootings and assaults."

Key findings from the PSNI report

- Sixty nine bombings over the last year to April compared to 48 in 2004/5.

- Two security-related deaths over the last year.

- 54 shooting incidents recorded in 2013/14 compared to 167 in 2004/5. There was an increase in the number of shootings over the last year relative to the previous year, including 19 from April to July this year.

- During the first four months of the 2014/15 year there have been nine bombing incidents. The number reached a two-year monthly high of 16 in October last year.

- 28 paramilitary shootings and 42 assaults in 2013/14 compared to 93 shootings and 116 assaults in 2004/5.

- Last year, 32 people were charged with terrorism offences compared to 77 in 2004/5.

- An increase in the amount of explosives seized during the last 12 months to 27 kg, a three-fold rise on the previous year.

- The number of firearms recovered during that period has also increased to 63 but ammunition finds decreased to just under 4,000 rounds.

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