Derry car bomb: Dissident Republican group New IRA ‘main line of inquiry’ after explosion, police say

Two men in their 20s arrested after attack

Adam Forrest
Sunday 20 January 2019 17:12 GMT

Dissident republican group the New IRA is suspected of being behind Saturday’s car bomb attack in Derry in Northern Ireland.

The attack came shortly after 8pm when a vehicle stolen from a pizza delivery driver by two armed men exploded on Bishop Street.

Two men in their 20s were arrested in the city in the early hours of Sunday by detectives investigating the blast.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA was the focus of the investigation.

“Our main line of inquiry is against the New IRA,” Mr Hamilton said. “The New IRA, like most dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland, is small, largely unrepresentative, and determined to drag people back to somewhere they don’t want to be.”

Mr Hamilton detailed how a pizza delivery driver was hijacked on Saturday evening, and his car packed with explosives before being left outside the court house on Bishop Street.

“We believe that some time after 6pm last night [Saturday], in the Quarry Street area of Derry, a pizza delivery driver was hijacked,” he said.

“He had his Ford Fusion car taken off him by at least two armed men. Between then and 7.23pm, a bomb was put in that car, driven at least half a mile to outside the court house on Bishop Street and around three minutes later a phone call went in to the Samaritans in West Midlands in England, which was then passed to West Midlands Police who then contacted us.

“In the intervening minutes we had already found the car and started to evacuate the area. At around 8.09pm, the bomb detonated.

Forensic teams investigate the aftermath of the bombing

“Fortunately it didn’t kill anybody and fortunately it didn’t cause widespread damage, but clearly it was a very significant attempt to kill people in the local community.”

He added they got everyone out “just in time”. Those removed from nearby buildings included hundreds of hotel guests, 150 people from the Masonic Hall and a large number of children from a church youth club.

Earlier fears of a second device have been ruled out. No one was injured in the attack, which has been condemned by politicians across Northern Ireland’s divide.

Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley said those responsible would not be permitted to disrupt progress.

“The small number of people responsible have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland’s future and will not prevail,” she said.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Ken Good, has described the bomb attack as an “act of utter recklessness which showed a callous disregard for the lives and safety of local citizens and visitors alike”.

“The attack was wrong. It is indefensible. It should never be repeated. The time has long since passed when such violence should have been consigned to history.”

The mayor of Derry, which is also known as Londonderry, John Boyle challenged those responsible to explain themselves.

“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,” the Social Democratic and Labour Party mayor said. “This is the past and it has to stay in the past. We don’t want to see any more of it.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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