Belfast Telegraph

Derry car bomb: Four arrests as shocking footage of car bombing is released


Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

Detectives investigating Saturday night's explosion in Londonderry arrested four men as dramatic footage of the blast was released.

Police last night published CCTV of the explosion outside Bishop Street Courthouse, showing the abandoned car detonating, sending a huge fireball high into the air and hurling debris all over the street.

Dissident republican group the New IRA is being blamed for the blast, which rocked the city centre just minutes after police had completed evacuating local bars, clubs and hotels on the busy road.

No injuries were reported.

The vehicle had earlier been hijacked from a fast food delivery driver in the Bogside, packed with its deadly cargo and abandoned outside the court building, just yards from Alexander House, a care home for elderly and vulnerable people.

Two men aged 34 and 42 were arrested in the city yesterday evening.

Earlier, police held two men in their 20s. All four were in custody last night.

Police revealed that a warning had been phoned in to the Samaritans in the West Midlands in England, and relayed to the police there before being passed on to the PSNI.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton condemned those behind the attack, calling it "unbelievably reckless".

"At around 7.55pm on Sunday night officers on patrol in Bishop Street spotted a suspicious vehicle and were making checks when, around five minutes later, information was received that a device had been left at the courthouse," he said.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton
19.23 car arriving
Driver runs away
19.39: people walk past
20:09: device detonates
20:09: device detonates
The scene outside the courthouse on Bishop Street after the explosion
Derry and Strabane mayor John Boyle
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

"We moved immediately to begin evacuating people from nearby buildings, including hundreds of hotel guests, 150 people from the masonic hall and a large number of children from a church youth club. The device detonated at 8.10pm.

"At this stage it appears as though the vehicle used had been hijacked from a delivery driver in Quarry Street a short time before the explosion.

"This attack was unbelievably reckless. Thankfully the attackers failed to kill or injure any members of the local community out socialising and enjoying the best of what the city has to offer.

"The people responsible for this attack have shown no regard for the community or local businesses. They care little about the damage to the area and the disruption they have caused.

"Our main line of inquiry is against the New IRA. The New IRA, like most dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland, are small, largely unrepresentative and just determined to drag people back to where they don't want to be.

"Our feelings today and our experience in the community is that there is very little support for these actions.

"There were a number of arrests in the early hours of Sunday morning here in the city, so this is primarily focused on local people in this city attacking their own city."

Those caught up in the blast have spoken out about their ordeal.

Electrician Francis Gallagher was working in a coffee shop down the street from the car bomb and said the whole building shook.

"Myself and my partner had just sat down for a break and then there was this absolute almighty bang," he said.

"The whole building shook. I said straight away to my partner that it must be a bomb, because I'd never heard anything so loud in my life.

"I'm not used to anything like this because I'm from Lancashire originally and I live in Donegal. It was really scary. I thought those days were over. I hoped that they were over, that's why I moved here."

Phillip Crossan was celebrating his birthday at a nearby hotel.

"I was in the restaurant celebrating my big day and I heard a big bang," he said.

"Then the staff came in and said that there was a bomb up the street. I remember that sound from many years ago, so I wasn't scared necessarily. The younger ones there were more scared than I was, they wouldn't have been used to it."

Derry mayor John Boyle, who was at the scene late into the night, hit out at those behind the attack.

"I am absolutely appalled by this terrible act of violence last night, right in the heart of our city centre," he said.

"I utterly condemn this attack, which could easily have resulted in loss of life or injury. The perpetrators do not speak for the people of Derry and Strabane and I would urge anyone with any information to contact the authorities so we can bring the perpetrators to justice."

The bombing was condemned right across the political spectrum.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley said that those responsible would not win.

"This attempt to disrupt progress in Northern Ireland has rightly been met with utter condemnation from all parts of the community. The small number of people responsible have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland's future and will not prevail," she said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster was equally forthright.

"This pointless act of terror must be condemned in the strongest terms," she said.

"It only hurts the people of the city. It was perpetrated by people with no regard for life.

"I am grateful to our emergency services for their swift actions, which helped ensure there have been no fatalities or injuries."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said what the "reckless individuals" behind the attack "fail to understand is that they stand in opposition to the Irish people".

He added: "All of us who remain committed to preserving the peace in this place have a duty to reflect on how our current political paralysis is opening the doors for those who foolishly have not listened to the will of people here.

"The current political context is dangerous - our history illustrates that very clearly."

Foyle Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion said: "Derry is a city moving forward and no one wants this type of incident.

"It is not representative of the city.

"I would encourage anyone with information about this incident to bring it to the police."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the bombing was "an act of cowardice".

"The actions of the mindless criminals who want to take Northern Ireland back to the past by bombing our city centres and putting lives in danger cannot and must not be allowed to succeed," he said.

"There was no excuse for it during the Troubles and there's no excuse for it now."

Alliance leader Naomi Long called the bomb "sickening". She said: "Those behind this have no excuse and no support for their actions. Neither have they anything to offer beyond their desire to cause death and destruction."

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that the attack was an attempt to "drag Northern Ireland back into violence and conflict".

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph