200lb bomb at Derry police station

Published Tuesday, 03 August 2010
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A taxi driver would have been shot if he had not delivered a 200lb proxy car bomb to a Londonderry police station, a police chief superintendent has told UTV.

A masked gang hijacked the vehicle at gunpoint in the early hours of Tuesday morning, before planting the bomb in the boot.

The driver was forced to travel with the device on board, from Cooke Street to Strand Road - where the bomb later exploded.

The PSNI received a telephone warning by a group claiming to be from Óglaigh na hÉireann, a dissident republican organisation, that the device would explode in 45 minutes but it went off just 23 minutes later.

Chief Superintendent Steven Martin said: "A taxi driver arrived at Strand police station and he told police that a few minutes earlier he had been hijacked and he believed there was a bomb in his car.

"Police immediately started an evacuation and a few minutes later, at 3am, police received a warning saying there was a bomb outside Strand road police station and it would go off in 45 minutes.

"Approximately 22-23 minutes after 3am and after that warning the bomb activated and went off ".

Police were still evacuating the area - which is close to a number of residential properties, including sheltered accommodation for the elderly - when the bomb exploded, at about 3.20am

Eyewitness

A local business man told UTV he and his staff were lucky to be alive.

Logfi Jalloul, who owns a kebab shop opposite Strand road police station and saw the blast, said: "Five minutes later and we would be somewhere else."

"The car pulled up in front of the police station and I saw a man running inside," Mr Jalloul told UTV.

"I just thought it was a taxi driver waiting for a man to come out of the station.

"Fifteen minutes later, a policeman came inside (the shop) and said 'Get out, quick'. Five minutes later, I watched the car blow up."

"I'm still in shock and I think the shop has been completely destroyed," the businessman said.

"The main thing is nobody was hurt - we got out safe, myself and my staff."

The attack - which has been branded "murderous" by the Acting Chairman of the Policing Board, Brian Rea - has also been condemned by representatives from across political divides.

In a joint statement, the First and deputy First Ministers stressed that Northern Ireland would not be dragged back to the dark days of the past.

DUP leader Peter Robinson said: "As a community we must send out a strong signal that there is no place in society for those who would use the bomb and the bullet."

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness added: "The people clearly support the institutions and we will remain united in our resolve to work together for the greater good."

Mayor of Derry City, Colum Eastwood said: "This is an unbelievable attack on the people of this city, never mind on the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It is completely against the will of the people.

"If these people are really Irish Republicans like they claim to be, they should listen to the people of Ireland and move off the stage."

The explosion comes just two weeks after the city's successful City of Culture bid for 2013, but the SDLP's Mr Eastwood has said this is just a temporary setback.

"We won't let it hold us back," he said.

"There's always going to be people in this society who want to drag us back to the past.

"We're determined to move forward to the future with positivity, in the spirit of reconciliation and we're very determined to do that. These people will not stop us."

Dissident republicans have been blamed for what is the second attack on Strand PSNI station in recent months, following the firing of a mortar bomb at its walls at the end of May.

'Campaign of violence'

Describing the latest incident as "cowardly, dangerous and vulgar", Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan said it was fortunate no lives had been lost.

"Those responsible have achieved nothing and this campaign of violence will achieve nothing," he added.

Sinn Féin MLA and Policing Board member Martina Anderson called on those who support the bombers to "come forward and explain to the people of Derry how these bombs will in any way advance republican objectives."

She added: "Whichever grouping carried out this attack, they need to seriously reflect on what they are doing.

"Their actions are no part of a campaign to bring about Irish unity and they have little or no popular support."

Northern Ireland's Justice Minister, Alliance leader David Ford, said those behind the bomb attack had displayed a lack of regard for human life.

"I commend the bravery of those police officers who risked their lives in trying to warn those in the vicinity of the attack," he added.

"The way in which people came together to secure the City of Culture for Derry/Londonderry demonstrates the true spirit of the city; and I am confident that they will not be distracted from the important task of continuing to build a bright and vibrant future for the area."

But DUP MLA Willie Hay questioned whether police had sufficient resources to tackle the threat from dissidents.

"I do believe that there is a situation developing where ordinary people on the ground believe that dissident republicans are out of control," he added.

Security levels were also called into question by TUV leader Jim Allister, who said the latest attack came as no surprise.

"When terrorism is rewarded, as it has been in Northern Ireland, and in tandem security is dumbed down to pander to the ill-named 'peace process', it is sadly no surprise that fresh terrorism flourishes," he said.

"Last night's Provo-style bombers are no different, in either modus operandi or motive, from the Provo mentors.

"With security denuded and terrorism rewarded with the highest office in the land, I fear we can anticipate more terrorism which, make no mistake, suits the Sinn Féin strategy as on the back of it they demand ever swifter concessions as the false antidote to terror."

The proxy bomb was a tactic used by the IRA for a short time in the early 1990s, whereby people were forced to drive car bombs into military targets.

The latest report from the paramilitary watchdog had concluded that dissident republicans, while still active, had little support and were incapable of mounting a campaign like the Provisional IRA.

But the Independent Monitoring Commission did find that the threat posed remained "very serious".

Police have appealed for anyone with information about Tuesday morning's bomb attack to come forward.

Strand Road from Asylum Road to the Queens Quay junction, including Asylum Road to Queen Street, will remain closed for two days as officers continue their investigation.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
46 Comments
Barney in Florida wrote (1,541 days ago):
Wise up!
Franky Ramsey''s in Derry wrote (1,549 days ago):
I was born and raised in Derry and I am proud of it, so I can call it what I want. I will not however be 'deeply offended if somebody wants to call it something else, call if king Billy City if you want but stop being a twat. As for the other twats who forced some poor sod at gun point to drive a home made bomb (also known as an IED these day, have you never seen SKY news) to the Strand Road when he was out trying to make a living, are your ears painted on? the people of Derry (or king Billy City, we don't want to 'deeply offend' anyone) do not want this, the people of Ireland, North and South, one and ALL do not want this. Do you need somebody to send you a memo. To the Loyalists, the Republicans, the Catholics and the Protestants, the fact that you feel that one word describes you is disapointing. As has already been mentioned, get out get a life, see the world, even a little tiny bit of it. I do not want to take anything away from you but you should be trying to make life better for everyone including 'the other side'.
need i say more in NORTHERN IRELAND wrote (1,549 days ago):
CITY OF CULTURE YOUR HAVING A LAUGH,
L in Derry wrote (1,550 days ago):
I think everyone involved in all this hatred should simply just GROW UP.. No one want wants to go back to the days of trouble NO ONE... It would fit these thugs and scum of the earth better if they would go get jobs instead of sitting making bombs....... It simply sickens me to know that there is still a few out there who just dont want to move on with the times and let us all try and have a better life...... They are sure to TRY and bomb our local police station BUT WHY they arent to long in accepting the Queens money when they are in the dole que...... I think the people who are actually involved in this really need lessons in what they are actually doing because what they have done just doesnt make sense..... Ad my thoughts are with the poor taxi driver xox
londonderry loyalist in londonderry wrote (1,550 days ago):
I have a question. What is the difference between a dissident republican, and a republican that supports Sinn Fein/PIRA? More to the point what is there to stop a sinn fein/PIRA member running about under the guise of dissident republican, since all they have to do is change their label and the whole media perception changes. All republicans have one aim, so why wouldn't they use such a tactic. They can play both the political role, and the tactical use of armed struggle role more efficiently.
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