Residents evacuated after suspected car bomb attack in Londonderry
There are no reports of any injuries at this stage.
Residents have been evacuated after a suspected car bomb exploded in Londonderry.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland as well as firefighters and the ambulance service sealed off the scene close to a courthouse on Bishop Street in the city.
Police have also indicated on their PSNI Foyle Facebook page that they are concerned about a second car on the street.
Witnesses earlier said they heard a loud bang and saw a large plume of smoke.
Local residents, including those in a sheltered housing complex for elderly people, are being evacuated.
There has been no reports of any casualties at this stage.
A photograph was tweeted from a Police Service of Northern Ireland Twitter account warning people to stay away from the area.
The tweet from the PSNI’s Derry City and Strabane District account also warns members of the public that Bishop Street is currently closed, adding the words “suspected car bomb”.
A further update was posted on the PSNI’s Foyle Facebook page.
“As far as we know no one injured. There is another car we are not happy about. There are ongoing necessary evacuations.”
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said it was a “pointless act of terror” which “must be condemned in the strongest terms”.
“Only hurts the people of the City. Perpetrated by people with no regard for life,” she said.
“Grateful to our emergency services for their swift actions which helped ensure there have been no fatalities or injuries.
Derry’s SDLP mayor John Boyle challenged those responsible on what the aim was.
He said: “I would actually like to ask the people responsible for this what it actually was that they thought they were going to achieve.
“It achieves nothing, it didn’t achieve anything in the past, it didn’t achieve anything right now.
“I have a question for them, what was this all about, because quite frankly this is not something that the people of this city wanted to see, it’s not something they support, and as Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, I have to say I feel it incumbent upon me to speak out on behalf of the vast, vast majority of people in Derry, Strabane and indeed across this island, this is not what we want.
“This is the past and it has to stay in the past. We don’t want to see any more of it.”
Sinn Fein Foyle MP Elisha McCallion has condemned the explosion.
This pointless act of terror must be condemned in the strongest terms. Only hurts the people of the City.— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) January 19, 2019
Perpetrated by people with no regard for life.
Grateful to our emergency services for their swift actions which helped ensure there have been no fatalities or injuries. https://t.co/IMJ7Dn9rAa
“This incident has shocked the local community,” she said. “In particular, there are many elderly residents who live in the area who have been alarmed.
“Thankfully no-one appears to have been injured.
“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.”
The Republic of Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney tweeted his disgust at the incident.
“I utterly condemn the car bomb terrorist attack in Derry this evening,” he said.
“There is no place and no justification possible for such acts of terror, which seek to drag Northern Ireland back to violence and conflict.”
Very disturbing news from L~Derry this evening. Hope that no-one is hurt. Police now reporting a second suspicious vehicle in the area.— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) January 19, 2019
Please follow police advice: avoid the area around Bishop Street Courthouse and stay safe while @PSNIDCSDistrict do their job. https://t.co/pOdpGGorjb
Local SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan tweeted: “Whoever is responsible for this explosion outside Bishop Street Courthouse in Derry clearly hasn’t got the message that the people of Derry DO NOT want this on our streets.
“We are trying to move Derry forward and will not let anyone drag us back to the dark days of the past.”
Local Democratic Unionist MLA Gary Middleton condemned the incident as a “disgraceful act of terrorism”.
“PSNI have confirmed there were no injuries in the serious incident at Bishops Street,” he said.
“Vehicle hijacked with explosion outside courthouse. Disgraceful act of terrorism.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has also voiced her concern about the incident on Twitter, describing it as “very disturbing news”.
The incident happened just a few miles from the Irish border as the Republic of Ireland prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of its war of independence.
The first shots of the war, which saw the southern 26 counties of Ireland become independent of the United Kingdom in 1921 before going on to become the Republic of Ireland, were fired at Soloheadbeg, Co Tipperary on January 21 1919.
PSNI have confirmed there were no injuries in the serious incident at Bishops Street. Vehicle hijacked with explosion outside courthouse. Disgraceful act of terrorism. pic.twitter.com/X0YoUT7ZUb— Gary Middleton MLA (@Gary_Middleton) January 19, 2019
Violent dissident republican groups have been responsible for a number of murders over the last 10 years.
They include the killing of Sappers Mark Quincey and Patrick Azimkar outside Massereene Barracks in Co Antrim in 2009 and PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, Co Armagh in the same year as well as Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh in 2011.
Dissidents were also responsible for the murders of prison officers David Black in 2012 and Adrian Ismay in 2016.
There have also been a number of narrow misses, including the maiming of Constable Peadar Heffron in 2010, when an undercar booby trap bomb left him seriously injured.