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N.Ireland: 2 held in connection with Londonderry bomb

Local police say thanks to timely response, Saturday explosion did not injure anyone

  | 20.01.2019
N.Ireland: 2 held in connection with Londonderry bomb

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON

Two men in their twenties have been arrested in connection with a car bomb explosion in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry, local police said on Sunday.

The explosion took place outside a courthouse on Bishop Street at around 8.10 p.m. (2010GMT) on Saturday night, a police statement said.

The attack may have been carried out by dissident republican group, the New IRA, a BBC report said.

Police were tipped off about a vehicle before the explosion.

“Police officers on routine patrol were already making checks in relation to the vehicle, which they found suspicious, when information was received that a device had been left at the courthouse,” said the statement from the Police Service in Northern Ireland (PSNI).

"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 minutes later,” said Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.

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

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

Karen Bradley, Britain’s Northern Ireland secretary, said the bomb was an "attempt to disrupt progress in Northern Ireland".

"The small number of people responsible have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland's future and will not prevail," she added.

Londonderry (Derry)

Londonderry -- known as Derry by its majority Irish nationalist population – is a city known for its violent past due to sectarian violence, known as The Troubles.

The town was the scene of an infamous massacre in January 1972 when members of Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment shot 27 unarmed people in a civil rights protest. Fourteen of the victims later died.

The killings hastened Northern Ireland’s descent into conflict between the British government and pro-British paramilitaries on one side and Irish republicans and nationalists on the other.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) were two armed groups which terrorized Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

The 1998 Belfast Agreement – a peace deal dubbed the Good Friday agreement -- largely saw the end of Troubles-era violence in which more than 3,500 people lost their lives.

IRA splinter groups remain active in the city.

Tensions

The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic has been one of the thorniest issues in Brexit negotiations between the U.K. and the EU.

A deal reached by British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU officials was rejected by MPs last week mainly due to the backstop clause having to do with avoiding a hard Irish border.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in 2016 referendum, and it is feared that the Brexit process could trigger enmities in the region.

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