Belfast Telegraph

Man arrested after 'grenades' siege drama inside Derry flats

By George Jackson

A man in his 30s has been arrested after he locked himself inside his apartment and threatened to blow himself up with hand grenades.

Specialist armed police units, PSNI negotiators, the Army and the emergency services flooded into Londonderry yesterday around 3pm after witnesses said a man was threatening to pull the pins and "bring the whole building down".

It is understood the man is a resident in the Meridian Flats complex, a sheltered residence for homeless people and registered alcoholics. It is believed the distressed man told police by phone that he was going to detonate two grenades.

The caller, who rented a third floor flat in the complex, then closed the curtains of the flat overlooking John Street close to Craigavon Bridge and locked his apartment door.

Shortly afterwards four fire appliances, three ambulances and dozens of police vehicles rushed to the scene.

A member of the public who was visiting a friend in the building when the alert started said it had been terrifying.

"I was visiting my friend who is a resident there and during the visit the man in the flat next door kept banging on the front door of my friend's flat," said the man, who did not wish to be named.

"As I went out into the hallway to see what was going on, he suddenly put his two hands into his jacket pockets and said he had two grenades, that he was going to pull the pins and bring the whole building down.

"I immediately got my friend out of the building and alerted the police. They arrived minutes later and it developed into a stand-off situation which continued for several hours."

Residents were evacuated from the building and John Street was sealed off as the area was cleared. Councillor Patricia Logue said disabled residents in another residential complex in the same street could not be immediately evacuated because of their conditions.

Officers from the PSNI's armed response unit wearing body armour then entered the complex and they attempted to make contact with the man.

The five-hour stand-off ended after specially trained police negotiators were able to contact the man by phone.

Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan, described the incident as "a fluid and very delicate situation".

"We had concerns for the man involved and our priority was to take every step possible to ensure that no harm came to the individual, or to anyone else in the proximity," the Foyle commander added. "I am very pleased that the situation has been resolved without harm to anyone.

"I want to pay tribute to all of the police officers and members of the other emergency services who were involved in the operation. It was not an easy one, but their professionalism and training were key elements in producing the outcome that we saw tonight."

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