Belfast Telegraph

Five arrests following Derry car bomb - 'most significant Northern Ireland attack for years' say PSNI

Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

The car bomb attack in Londonderry on Saturday evening was the most significant terrorist attack in Northern Ireland for years, a senior PSNI officer has said.

The bomb exploded after being left in an abandoned car outside Bishop Street Courthouse.

Police attended the scene after receiving a warning through the Samartians and cleared the scene before the explosion. Nobody was injured in the blast.

The PSNI has said that they believe dissident republican group the New IRA is behind the attack.

Four men arrested following the attack, aged 42, 34 and two aged 21, have since been released unconditionally.

A fifth man arrested on Monday under the Terrorism Act remains in police custody.

He was also arrested in connection with an armed robbery in the Meadowbank Avenue area of Derry on Tuesday January 15.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told BBC Radio Four's Today programme on Monday morning that it was the first attack of this nature in a long time.

"The use of a vehicle born IED or car bomb is not a new tactic, the Troubles as they have existed in Northern Ireland and the republican groupings who still exist would still aspire to use all these types of tactics," he said.

"Certainly we haven't seen a device of this nature function for quite a while. For everyone, particularly the community, this is disbturbing.

"This hasn't happened for a while and it's a high risk tactic, it puts lots of people at harm and is very worrying for people."

Mr Hamilton said police acted quickly to get people off the scene of the bomb attack.

"We can't rule out the fact that many people could have lost their lives," the Assistant Chief Constable said.

He said that the "main drumbeat" of the New IRA was "paramilitary style assaults".

"We have seen other incidents involving the New IRA and people allegedly involved with them right back to the shooting at Massereene (Barracks) in 2009 when some soldiers were killed," Mr Hamilton said.

"This current attack is probably the most significant attack in recent years, last year saw very few attacks of a national security nature in Northern Ireland.

The Assistant Chief Constable said that the attacks were just "severe criminality".

"These people claim to have a political aim, there were some claims on political websites that this explosion was in relation to the 100th anniversary of the civil war in Ireland," Mr Hamilton said.

"They claim some sort of loose political agenda, but generally this is to try and intimidate people and it is a form of extreme criminality.

"If you look at the images you see a man plant a car bomb and then run away, the converse to that is local police officers recruited from the local community run towards the device and help people to get away from it."

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