Children evacuated from church youth club just minutes before bomb exploded

Last night’s car bomb attack on Londonderry’s courthouse has been condemned by police as “unbelievably reckless”.

Children were evacuated from a church youth club in the area, and hundreds of hotel guests were moved to safety just minutes before the blast.

The scene of the suspected car bomb attack on Bishop Street in Londonderry. Pic by Steven McAuley/PA Wire

The scene of the suspected car bomb attack on Bishop Street in Londonderry. Pic by Steven McAuley/PA Wire

Shortly before 8pm, officers on patrol in Bishop Street spotted a suspicious vehicle and were making checks when information was received that a device had been left at the courthouse.

“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 at 8.10pm,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton explained.

“At this stage it appears as though the vehicle used had been hijacked from a delivery driver in the Quarry Street a short time before the explosion.

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

The scene at Bishop Street, Londonderry on Saturday night

The scene at Bishop Street, Londonderry on Saturday night

He continued: “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.

“The area remains sealed off and church services at St Augustine’s have been moved to St Peter’s and the Cathedral services have been cancelled this morning as a result.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support and co-operation of the local community and I am appealing to anyone with information to please get in touch with us on 101. Information can also be given to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Condemning the attack, the Deputy Mayor of Derry City and Strabane, UUP Alderman Derek Hussey, said: “There can be no justification for the planting of a car bomb in Londonderry’s Bishop Street area on Saturday evening.

The mangled wreckage of the vehicle after a bomb exploded at Bishop Street, Londonderry

The mangled wreckage of the vehicle after a bomb exploded at Bishop Street, Londonderry

“Those who carried out this act had no thought for the safety and wellbeing of fellow citizens, much less the hard pressed economy and the impact this will have on the city’s businesses, nor the impression given to visitors to our area.

“These are by their very nature, inherently unstable devices, and history tells us that they can detonate prematurely, whilst being assembled or transported. That of course is of no concern to the criminal elements within our society who undertake these actions in order to subdue their fellow citizens.

“This is nothing less than fascism, where violence and the threat of violence are used to terrorise people and communities, and these people need to be rejected and rooted out from our midst for the good of all.

“There is neither cause nor desire for a return to the type of scenes exhibited all too often in the violence of the past and I urge anyone with information on this matter to contact the authorities.”

• Detectives investigating the explosion outside Bishop Street courthouse have arrested two men.

The pair, both aged in their 20s, were arrested in the city this morning, according to police.

“They remain in custody at present,” a PSNI spokesperson said.