14 April 2006

Police blame dissidents for bomb 'lunacy'

Derry Journal

14 April 2006

POLICE WERE last night linking dissident republicans to a huge incendiary device which a top policeman said could have caused "untold damage" in the city. The device, abandoned on the Northland Road, was made safe by army bomb experts.

The incident began when a man making a pizza delivery in the Altcar Park area of Galliagh at around 12.30am yesterday was approached by three men wearing balaclavas, one of whom was a carrying a handgun.

The local man was taken from his vehicle and held at gunpoint in a nearby alleyway. The vehicle was driven away and returned within 15 minutes, and the terrified driver was then instructed to drive the van to Strand Road Police Station and leave it parked outside.

He drove the vehicle as far as Northland Road, near Springvale Park, before parking and alerting police at Strand Road.

Acting Superintendent Ken Finney said that when the vehicle was examined by an Army Technical Officer, the device contained a "petrol-like liquid, two gas canisters attached to the wheelie bin, both of which were turned on, one was empty and a timer device which had expired. This was connected to a small light suspended inside the wheelie bin above the liquid."

The deadly device which was made safe shortly after 8am yesterday. Nine homes in Springvale Park were evacuated during the security alert and the occupants were cared for at a local primary school. Supt. Finney said the incident could have caused "untold damage" and added: "Those behind last night's attack showed remarkable contempt for the people of this city."

Had the device ignited, Supt. Finney said: "There would have been a 100-200 metre radius of a severe blast which would have caused immense damage to property and would, of course, taken life."

Supt. Finney said that the military experts were now trying to establish why the device had not activated.

"The timing device had run its course, so by all accounts, it should have ignited." Speculating on those responsible, Supt. Finney said: "No-one has claimed responsibility for it yet, but clearly dissident republicans who have had similar devices in the past would be in the frame."

"Obviously, the people who carried out this action have their own agenda, but certainly from a policing perspective and a human perspective at every stage in this messy operation, lives were put at risk. "Had the van reached its intended target, and that appears to be ourselves at Strand Road, at that time of the morning there would still have been people walking about and had anyone been near it when it went off they would have been killed instantly," he added.

Supt. Finney said it had been a "traumatic experience" for the local man. (It's] "madness, lunacy, words fail me at this stage. Anyone who is doing this, think clearly what you're doing and why you're doing it and the lives you are putting at risk. Had that device went off, I doubt very much it would have helped anyone's cause," he added.

The incident has been condemned by Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey, who said those responsible were intent on "causing destruction and mayhem on the streets of Derry."

Sinn Féin's Billy Page accused those behind the bomb of having "no strategy or support and are unrepresentative of the Republican or Nationalist community." The group responsible "should desist immediately as they are causing more harm to the people that they claim to represent than they do to the British Crown forces," he said.

Witnesses to the hijacking or anyone who noticed the armed gang acting suspiciously in the area or anyone who has any information regarding the incident is asked to contact the detectives at Strand Road.

The telephone number to ring is 0845 600 8000, or contact 'Crimestoppers' anonymously on freephone 0800 555111.

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