Attacks and alerts prompt questions, criticism

Mystery surrounds an attack in Derry city centre on Saturday, in which a small device exploded inside a bank.

The Santander bank at the city’s nationalist Diamond area had been cleared after masked men threw a holdall into the building and shouted a one-hour bomb warning.

The device is thought to have contained between two to four pounds of explosive.

A telephoned warning was also received before the device exploded, one hour and twenty minutes later, causing damage to the interior of the bank.

The same caller also said a bomb had been left near the start of the North West 200 motorcycle race in the nearby town of Portstewart, which was abandoned in any event due to heavy rain. The area was evacuated but the alert was declared a hoax a short time later.

A Belfast based newsroom said it had received a coded claim of responsibility in the name of the ‘Real IRA’, although the PSNI has said no organisation has yet been linked to the blast. The PSNI cancelled a media briefing on the incident at short notice on Monday, and said they may release more information later this week.

The bomb attack angered a wide range of nationalist and unionist opinion in Derry and also disrupted a large commemorative event being organised by the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP).

City centre business owner said they had lost money due to the evacuation, while staff at Abbey Insurance Brokers opposite the bank where the device detonated expressed anger that they had not been evacuated.

However, Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the PSNI had acted speedily to clear the area.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that the attack that was carried out, was an attack not just on the building which was affected or the citizens who were in the building, but an attack on the entire community.

“The whole of the city was affected.

“Unfortunately we are afflicted by the fact that there is a very tiny element who believe that trying to plunge us all back into the past represents a sensible way forward.

“There is a duty and responsibility on all of us to give support to the police service so we can bring about the undermining of those who would wish to plunge us back to the past.”

Meanwhile, Gardai have said, despite considerable speculation, none of the republican armed groups were behind a spate of bomb hoaxes and the discovery of a device on a bus in Maynooth, County Kildare in the run up to the British royal visit last week.

The scares had been prominently linked to republican protests against the visit by government officials and media outlets in Dublin and London.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News