CCTV shows the moment a group of young people walk past a pizza delivery vehicle minutes before it exploded in a bomb attack blamed on the New IRA.
A fifth man was arrested today by police after armed men hijacked the car and left it outside a courthouse in Londonderry on Saturday night before it burst into a fireball.
The latest arrest came as shocking footage emerged showing the blast in the quiet city centre street just before 8.10pm – just 30 minutes after a group of seven came within just yards of it as they strolled past.
The area was later evacuated after a phone call was made the Samaritans in the West Midlands which tipped off police. Nobody was injured in the attack.
A man in his fifties was arrested today and detained under the Terrorism Act. Four men arrested on Sunday remain in police custody.
CCTV footage released today by police in Northern Ireland shows the terrifying moment the hijacked vehicle explodes outside a court house
Footage shows the group of young people walking withing yards of the vehicle outside the courthouse on Saturday night – 30 minutes before it exploded
The burnt wreckage of the vehicle outside Londonderry’s courthouse on Saturday night after the car bomb attack which has sparked fears of a return to terrorist violence
The clean-up gets underway on Sunday morning as a forensic officer inspects the remains of the exploded van
Political leaders called the explosion an ‘act of terror’ and warned that the ‘dark days of the past’ could return to the province, as police pointed the finger at the New IRA, a dissident republican group they called ‘small and unrepresentative’.
DUP leader Arlene Foster called the blast a ‘pointless act of terror’ while the Alliance party said it was ‘an attack on everything we have worked towards over the past 20 years’.
Yesterday Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: ‘Our main line of inquiry is against the New IRA.
The remains of a car after a suspected car bombing in Londonerry, Northern Ireland yesterday
‘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.
‘Fortunately it didn’t kill anybody and fortunately it didn’t cause widespread damage, but clearly it was a very significant attempt to kill people in the local community.’
Describing the attack, he said: ‘A bomb was put in that car, driven at least half a mile to outside the court house on Bishop Street and around three minutes later a phone call went in to the Samaritans in West Midlands in England, which was then passed to West Midlands Police who then contacted us.
‘In the intervening minutes we had already found the car and started to evacuate the area. At around 8.09pm, the bomb detonated.’
One local resident, Greg McLaughlin, told BBC News the explosion had shaken his windows.
He said: ‘It was very, very loud. I knew right away this was a bomb. We knew it was quite close.
‘You could see the ball of fire on the street. It sounded to me like a very significant blast. I haven’t heard anything like it in Derry for quite a while.’
DUP leader Ms Foster said on Twitter: ‘This pointless act of terror must be condemned in the strongest terms.
Forensic officers arrive at the scene of the car bomb in Londonderry today after the explosion on Saturday night
‘Only hurts the people of the City. Perpetrated by people with no regard for life.’
Alliance party leader Naomi Long said: ‘I, like many in the community tonight, am completely appalled and disgusted at this murderous attack.
‘[It is] an attack on our peace, our prosperity and everything we have worked towards over the past 20 years, and an attack on the people of Derry-Londonderry.
‘It is absolutely sickening that there are still people willing to bring violence to our streets and risk people’s lives and livelihoods.
The scene of the blast in Londonderry last night after what was reported to be a pizza delivery van was hijacked nearby
The shell of the vehicle is seen on Bishop Street after the explosion which Arlene Foster has condemned as a ‘pointless act of terror’
The scene of a suspected car bomb on Bishop Street in Londonderry (pictured). Police evacuated the area last night
‘The people of Derry~Londonderry and of Northern Ireland are united in condemning this vile attack: those determined to drag us back to the dark days of the past can and must never be successful.’
Sinn Fein have also condemned the explosion, saying: ‘This incident has shocked the local community. 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 in this incident. Derry is a city moving forward and no one wants this type of incident. It is not representative of the city.’
Police described the attack as ‘unbelievably reckless’ as forensic officers took to the scene.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: ‘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.
A police officer and his sniffer dog inspect the scene nearto the remains of the car that was hijacked and packed with explosives
DUP leader Arlene Foster was among the politicians who condemned the attack, saying it was ‘perpetrated by people with no regard for life’
Police said they had evacuated the area and were checking a second suspicious car after the blast in Londonderry on Saturday evening
‘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.’
Police sealed off the scene as they responded to the blast and checked a second suspicious car, saying they were dealing with an ‘extensive crime scene’.
Representatives of the retail and hospitality industries in Londonderry have also condemned the car bomb attack in the city as ‘shameful’.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts described the attack as ‘totally shameful and despicable’.
‘Derry city centre traders have been working extremely hard in recent years to provide an excellent retail and hospitality offer,’ he said.
‘The people of Derry have shown their resilience many times and I have no doubt this reckless attack will not hold them back’
‘The city will continue to move forward’
The scene of the suspected car bomb on Bishop Street in Londonderry soon after the explosion
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said a number of businesses affected by the attack had opened as normal on Sunday.
‘We are a resilient bunch in the hospitality sector and this incident last night will not deter us from opening today and getting on with the job,’ he said.
‘We have been in touch with many of the businesses impacted by the situation in Bishop Street and the surrounding area and they have bounced back straight away, opening for business with normal trading hours and welcoming visitors and tourists back to the city.’
The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Ken Good described the bomb attack as an ‘act of utter recklessness which showed a callous disregard for the lives and safety of local citizens and visitors alike’.
‘It defies belief that anyone would place a bomb on a city centre street, early on a Saturday evening, so close to people’s homes, churches, a hotel, sheltered accommodation, nearby pubs and a large car park.
The wreckage from the car bomb moments after it exploded outside the court house on Bishop Street
Northern Irish officers guard a police cordon in Londonderry after the explosion outside a courthouse on Saturday night
‘St Columb’s Cathedral and St Augustine’s Church, where a group of young people had been meeting yesterday evening, have both had to cancel their Sunday morning services while the police carry out a follow-up security operation,’ he said.
Officers were on the scene quickly as they were already responding to the hijacked delivery van, the Irish Times reported.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said on Twitter: ‘As far as we know no one injured. There are ongoing necessary evacuations.
‘If you live Bishop Street or Bishop Street Without look at potentially making preparations to leave. We can only apologise for any inconvenience.
‘Second suspicious car has been checked. We are now just dealing with an extensive crime scene.’
Witnesses earlier said they heard a loud bang and saw a large plume of smoke with local residents, including those in a sheltered housing complex for elderly people, being evacuated from the area.
The scene of a suspected car bomb on Bishop Street in Londonderry. Police are also concerned about a second car on the street
Emergency services at the scene of a suspected car bomb on Bishop Street in Londonderry, which exploded outside a court house
Local SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan tweeted: ‘Whoever is responsible for this explosion outside Bishop Street Courthouse in Derry clearly hasn’t got the message that the people of Derry DO NOT want this on our streets.
‘We are trying to move Derry forward and will not let anyone drag us back to the dark days of the past.’
The incident happened just a few miles from the Irish border as the Republic of Ireland prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of its war of independence.
The first shots of the war, which saw the southern 26 counties of Ireland become independent of the United Kingdom in 1921 before going on to become the Republic of Ireland, were fired at Soloheadbeg, Co Tipperary on January 21 1919.
Violent dissident republican groups have been responsible for a number of murders over the last 10 years.
They include the killing of Sappers Mark Quincey and Patrick Azimkar outside Massereene Barracks in Co Antrim in 2009 and PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, Co Armagh in the same year as well as Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh in 2011.
Dissidents were also responsible for the murders of prison officers David Black in 2012 and Adrian Ismay in 2016.
There have also been a number of narrow misses, including the maiming of Constable Peadar Heffron in 2010, when an undercar booby trap bomb left him seriously injured.
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