An extensive police operation has been mounted in Derry city centre after a car bomb exploded at 8.15pm this evening.
Part of the Diamond is cordoned off as is much of Bishop Street and British army technical officers are on the way to the scene. It is understood police received a 30-minute warning; a pizza delivery van had been hijacked in the Brandywell area and it is understood this is the vehicle that was used in the attack.
Police officers had just arrived on the scene when the device exploded but they did not have time to evacuate all premises. It is understood the device was a blast bomb placed inside the car.
Staff in the nearby Bishop’s Gate Hotel were told to lock doors and not allow anyone in. One woman who was inside said: “I was sitting eating my dinner when the bomb went off. After that the staff were brilliant and we were kept up to date with developments.”
All the residents in the hotel have now been moved to nearby accommodation. There is no obvious damage to the hotel and no other premises appear to have been evacuated. An old people’s home was within the security cordon but was not evacuated either.
The bomb appears to have exploded outside the security entrance to Bishop Street Courthouse.
Police have also indicated on their PSNI Foyle Facebook page that they are concerned about a second car on the street.
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.”
Mayor of Derry John Boyle said: “Words fail you. It is regrettable that we are standing here once more in front of a police cordon after an explosion in the city centre. Tonight I’m very unhappy because I know the people of this city want to move forward and to build a better future and I am deeply saddened that a minority in our community wants to drag us back to the past. And what is worse, threaten life.”
The PSNI are at the scene and have asked for “the patience and co-operation of the public and the business community as we carry out our initial investigations”.
The MP for the area, Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion, condemned the attack and said she believed nobody had been injured.
“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 by this incident. 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.”
SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said: “Whoever is responsible for this explosion within our city centre hasn’t got the message that the people of Derry don’t want this on our streets. Whatever their agenda is they are causing distress, damage and potential death and that is not the way to further your cause”
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney tweeted: “I utterly condemn the car bomb terrorist attack in Derry this evening. There is no place and no justification possible for such acts of terror, which seek to drag Northern Ireland back to violence and conflict.”
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley said he was concerned at the reports from Derry and was being kept informed by the PSNI.” I urge anyone with any information to contact the police or Crimestoppers.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted, “this pointless act of terror must be condemned in the strongest terms. Only hurts the people of the City. 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.”
‘Act of terrorism’
Her party colleague and DUP MLA Gary Middleton tweeted, “PSNI have confirmed there were no injuries in the serious incident at Bishops Street. Vehicle hijacked with explosion outside courthouse. Disgraceful act of terrorism.”
Fiachra McGuiness, son of the late former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, tweeted, “whoever is responsible for this bomb in our Beautiful City tonight, live in Planet hate”.
Independent unionist MLA and former minister for justice Claire Sugden said this is worrying news. Derry and Northern Ireland “have suffered much and long left this behaviour behind. Hopefully no one is hurt.”