A forensic officer inspects the scene of a suspected car bomb in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, January 20 2019. Picture: REUTERS/CLODAGH KILCOYNE
A forensic officer inspects the scene of a suspected car bomb in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, January 20 2019. Picture: REUTERS/CLODAGH KILCOYNE

Londonderry — Police investigating a suspected car bombing in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry said on Sunday they believe dissident republican group the New IRA to be responsible.

The suspected bomb exploded at 8.10pm on Saturday, as police were evacuating the area following a warning that a device had been planted outside the city courthouse. There were no casualties.

“Our main line of inquiry is against the New IRA,” said Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton.

“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. The people responsible for this attack have shown no regard for the community or local businesses. They care little about the damage to the area and the disruption they have caused.”

Two men in their twenties were arrested in the city on Sunday, as police and army explosives teams remained on the scene of the blast.

Police say they believe the vehicle used in the attack was hijacked locally from a delivery driver earlier on Saturday.

Sectarian bloodshed

The warning call was made to a charity hotline in England, before being communicated to local law enforcement in the British province, police said.

Londonderry was a consistent flashpoint in the three decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.

Campaigns of assassination and car bombing between republicans and unionists were largely brought to an end by the 1998 Good Friday peace accords.

As part of the agreement, the Irish Republican Army paramilitary group decommissioned its last remaining weapons in 2005 and committed itself to pursuing its aim of a united Ireland through purely political means. But dissident paramilitaries remain active on both sides of the divide.

“This attempt to disrupt progress in Northern Ireland has rightly been met with utter condemnation from all parts of the community,” said Northern Ireland secretary of state Karen Bradley.

“The small number of people responsible have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland’s future and will not prevail. This is intolerable violence and we want to look forward and build a peaceful future for all in Northern Ireland.”

Former Northern Irish first minister Arlene Foster, who heads the province’s Democratic Unionist Party, referred to it as a “pointless act of terror”, while the Republic of Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney called it a “car bomb terrorist attack”.

AFP