Belfast Telegraph

Full alert amid terrorism fears

Police in Northern Ireland are on full alert amid fears of an escalating terrorist campaign by dissident republicans.

A faction opposed to the peace process was blamed for Thursday night's bombings in and around the centre of Londonderry and even though nobody was hurt, police said the terrorists were prepared to take whatever chances they thought necessary to cause destruction.

The visitor and convention bureau - Derry is host city for next year's UK City of Culture - and DHSS offices were damaged by two explosions following a telephone warning. Dozens of people, including elderly residents in sheltered accommodation, had to flee their homes.

Police said either the Real IRA - the organisation which bombed Omagh in August 1998 killing 29 people - or a group called Oglaigh na hEireann is likely to have been responsible.

Derry police chief superintendent Stephen Martin said: "I can't understand their logic or what they hope they can contribute. They appear to be cavalier in terms of the risk they are prepared to take.

"When you carry bombs into an urbanised environment, they will know the risk they have taken. They will have scurried off and got themselves safe before making their phone call. They'll have left the bombs inside bags and you could have had inquisitive young people; people walking their dog or stopping for a chat cut to pieces with bombs going off prematurely."

Former SDLP mayor of Derry Gerard Diver called on the City Council to organise a mass rally in opposition to the attacks. He said: "If our regeneration process is to have any hope of building a bright new future for Derry, then it is vital that those behind these attacks are given a very clear message that the people of Derry wholeheartedly reject their violent approach, as they have always overwhelmingly rejected violence, from whatever source it came."

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who were in London earlier this week for the launch of a major new international tourism offensive in Northern Ireland this year, were among politicians and churchmen on all sides who condemned the attacks.

Mr Robinson said: "These were the actions of people who have nothing to offer and seem intent on bringing us back to the bad old days. They will not succeed. Their actions, in bringing disruption and fear to the local community, are reprehensible."

Mr McGuinness, who lives in Derry, said those responsible must be apprehended quickly and brought before the courts. He added: "Derry has so much to look forward to in the next couple of years, yet some people seem set on causing mayhem and causing as much disruption as possible. These attacks serve no purpose - theirs is an agenda of the past; ours is of the future."

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