Belfast Telegraph

Elderly residents forced to flee homes in bomb alert

By Aine Fox

A bomb alert near the courthouse in Londonderry forced elderly residents to flee their homes yesterday evening.

A controlled explosion was carried out on a car shortly afterwards.

It is understood a warning was phoned through to Alexander House, a sheltered housing scheme, at 6.45pm, forcing 40 residents to leave.

One resident said: “It’s not a very nice thing to happen and I’m not sure of the reason why. It’s stupid.”

Other phone calls are also thought to have been made at various locations around the city.

Homes and bars in the city centre were also evacuated in the alert.

Army Technical Officers were called to the Masonic car park near the courthouse and one small controlled explosion was carried out on a suspicious vehicle just after 9pm.

A wide police cordon closed off Bishop Street, the Diamond and the surrounding area last night as police continued their investigation after the controlled explosion.

No group is thought to have claimed responsibility for the attack, but dissident republicans are suspected.

Mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood said the incident did nothing but disrupt and upset residents in the area.

“The people suffering as a result of this are those living in Alexander House,” said Mr Eastwood. “These are people’s mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.”

He called on those responsible to end their campaign of violence.

“These people need to realise the damage they are doing to their community and need to stop this immediately,” he said.

SDLP Assembly member Pat Ramsey condemned those responsible.

“People in Derry are distressed and disgusted that something like this has happened in our city,” he said.

“Those responsible have frightened and forced vulnerable, elderly people out of their homes, they have closed hard-pressed businesses and have damaged the image of our city.”

Speaking last night, a police spokeswoman said: “The security alert is ongoing, homes are still evacuated and the road is still closed.”

Police said the alert was expected to continue for some time and traffic was being diverted away from the area. Motorists were being advised to take an alternative route.

In August last year republican group Oglaigh na hEireann claimed responsibility for a car bomb outside the city’s Strand Road police station. While no-one was injured a number of businesses were damaged.

Last October, the Real IRA claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded outside a bank on the Culmore Road in the city.

Earlier this month shots were fired at police as they investigated a report of a stolen car in the Glen Road area of the city. The Real IRA also claimed responsibility for that attack.

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