Dissidents condemned over police station attack

Political leaders today condemned dissident republicans believed to be responsible for a car bomb attack on a Northern Ireland police station.

There were no initial reports of injuries after a taxi driver was forced at gunpoint to drive the device to Londonderry's Strand Road police station.

But after widespread damage was caused by the bomb, the area's MP, Mark Durkan, condemned those behind the attack.

The SDLP politician said: "This was a cowardly, dangerous and vulgar act.

"It is extremely fortunate that no injury has been caused or life lost as a result of this attack.

"Those responsible for this incident have achieved nothing and this campaign of violence will achieve nothing."

Police said two men, one armed with a gun, hijacked the taxi driver shortly before 3am.

The bomb was loaded into his car and he was forced to drive to the police station.

Officers are understood to have been evacuating the area when the device exploded.

Damage was caused to the heavily fortified station, plus surrounding buildings including a nursing home and apartments.

The attack comes weeks after Londonderry was boosted by the positive response to the Saville Inquiry report into the events of Bloody Sunday, and after it was named UK City of Culture.

Derry Mayor Colm Eastwood said the people of the city would be outraged by the attack.

The car bomb exploded at around 3.20am.

The area of the blast was cordoned off today and police warned of major disruption as they examined the scene.

Officers were also investigating reports of an explosion at Brownlow police station in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

They said a blast bomb may have been hurled at the station, but have yet to confirm an attack.

Police said there was no immediate sign of damage and no injuries.

Meanwhile, Mr Eastwood blamed dissident republicans for the attack in Derry.

"There seems to be a lot of wreckage. The car is completely destroyed and it seems businesses across the street have been destroyed as well," he said.

"Police didn't even have time to evacuate a nursing home or apartments right beside the police station."

The mayor told the BBC: "We are very lucky today not to be talking about fatalities. It's an attack not just on the police but the entire community."

Sinn Fein Foyle representative and Policing Board member Martina Anderson said those responsible for the attack should explain their conduct.

"Their actions are no part of a campaign to bring about Irish unity and they have little or no popular support," she said.

"Those of us in political leadership need to continue to keep working, to continue to build relationships and continue to demonstrate clearly that politics does work and that a political and peaceful path to a united Ireland is available."

She said anyone with information should go to the police.

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell called for resolute action to be taken against the bombers.

"It is essential that not only words of condemnation follow these attacks but action flows from them as well," he said.

"Describing the perpetrators as 'evil' or 'traitors' is accurate as far as it goes but what is required to prevent re-occurrence is information, evidence, prosecution, conviction in a court followed by lengthy prison sentences.

"The community where these individuals operate from should provide the information and the police and courts must do their job."

Alliance Party chief whip Kieran McCarthy condemned the attack.

"There is a small number of people who are trying to cause mayhem in our society but they must never prevail," he said.

"The massive progress made in Northern Ireland in recent years cannot and must not be damaged by those seeking to cause instability."