Belfast Telegraph

Bus driver 'bomb' terror: Object put on vehicle as man ordered to go to PSNI station

By Rebecca Black

A bus driver has been praised for his bravery after being ordered to drive to a police station after a suspicious object was placed on his vehicle.

In a flashback to the horror of tactics used during the Troubles, the driver was told to take a bomb to Strand Road PSNI station in Londonderry.

The bus proceeded but was abandoned by the driver on Northland Road.

It was left outside the First Source call centre and directly across the road from the residential area at Springvale Park.

Several dozen homes were evacuated as were an estimated 300 employees in the call centre. A fish shop and restaurant were also forced to close early due to the incident which took place between six and 6.30pm.

It is understood that Derry City Council offered to open Templemore Sports Complex for residents if they needed shelter.

The incident came just hours after US diplomat Richard Haass visited Derry to meet business leaders and groups including the Apprentice Boys.

The PSNI cordoned Northland Road off just after 6.30pm between the Branch roundabout and Springvale Park.

There were different reports of the incident. Some said a youth threw a bag containing an object on to the bus in the Ballymagroaty area, others that two masked men placed an object on the floor of the vehicle.

Army bomb experts used a remote-controlled robot to examine the object.

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy condemned the incident and praised the bravery of the driver.

"The driver showed immense courage under very difficult circumstances," Mr Kennedy said.

"Attacks on public transport impact the entire community who depend on buses and trains."

Derry's mayor Martin Reilly described the incident as worrying.

"It is a worrying development that people are hijacking public transport to transport bombs across the city," he said.

Deputy mayor Gary Middleton said every right-thinking person would condemn the incident.

He said: "This is the type of thing we hoped we had left behind. There are so many fantastic things going on in the city right now, but this has the potential to deflect from all of that."

SDLP councillor John Boyle lives nearby and said the incident had caused a great deal of upset on a "brutally cold night".

Sinn Fein councillor Eric McGinley was also at the scene last night and said he unreservedly condemned the actions of those responsible.

BACKGROUND

Strand Road PSNI station has been a repeated target of attacks. Dissident republicans have attacked police vehicles in Derry over the last few weeks, including a grenade attack on a PSNI patrol in the Whitehouse Road area and the throwing of a device at a police car in the Bogside. Dissidents claimed responsibility for a letter bomb to a senior police officer.

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