[WATCH] Police believe ‘New IRA’ behind car bomb in Northern Ireland

A total of four men were arrested, in connection to the attack which is being labelled by the Police Service of Northern Ireland as a ‘significant attempt to kill’ 

Bishop Street remains cordoned off
Bishop Street remains cordoned off

Police in Derry believe the republican group dubbed as the 'New IRA' was behind an explosion outside the city’s courthouse on Saturday night.

“Our primary line of inquiry is that the New IRA was responsible,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told reporters in Derry on Sunday.

He said it was a “significant attempt to kill”.

Nobody was injured when the device exploded on Bishop Street shortly after 8pm. It was in a pizza delivery vehicle which had been hijacked earlier.

Hamilton said a bomb, which was described as a “crude and unstable device,” was then placed inside and the vehicle was then driven half a mile through the city, putting lives at risk.

Two men, aged 34 and 42, were arrested this evening in Derry in relation to the investigation. This follows the arrest of another two men in their 20s earlier as part of the inquiry, and they remain in custody.

A group of 150 people had to be evacuated from a youth club directly opposite the bomb site, as well as hotel guests and those in local bars.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has condemned the device as “unbelievably reckless”, and said it would have killed anybody who had been near it when it exploded.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, “this was an appalling, reckless and cynical act of terror. Violence to achieve political objectives has been rejected by the people of this island again and again. The Government condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”

Bishop Street remains cordoned off. Army technical officers are at the scene, as are police forensic investigators. It is expected to remain closed until at least late on Monday.

The type of device used is unclear, and police say the extent of the damage to the vehicle means it will not be known until the forensic examination is complete.

Hamilton said that the pizza delivery driver had been called to an address in Quarry Street in the Brandywell area of Derry where two armed and masked men approached him.

“He was taken to the back garden of a house and held there while possibly a third male was also involved in removing the car from the scene...at some point then a bomb was put into the car and then that car was moved by, we believed by a single person, up to Bishop Street.”

The car was abandoned outside the courthouse, and the driver ran off in the direction of the Bogside.

Hamilton said that the car was abandoned at about 7.23pm and that shortly afterwards a call was received by The Samaritans in the West Midlands warning of a car bomb outside the courthouse in Derry.

That call was passed on to West Midlands police, who then passed it on to the PSNI. A patrol had already spotted the vehicle and had begun to evacuate the area. The bomb exploded at 8.09pm.

PSNI officers cut gates at the back of a youth club to allow 150 people who were there to take part in a charity quiz to enable them to escape from the building onto the city’s walls.

“They got everybody away just in time,” said Hamilton.

“At the time the place was packed with people, there was a hotel we had to evacuate and local bars, so there was a huge impact on the local community and a huge risk to people just going about their business and enjoying themselves,” he said.

More in World