BELFAST (Reuters) - Nationalist militants exploded a car bomb outside a heavily fortified police station in Northern Ireland’s second-largest city of Derry on Tuesday, the latest in a series of increasingly frequent attacks in the province.
Nobody was injured in the attack which police said was carried out with a bomb containing 200 lb (91 kg) of homemade explosives.
Police said a taxi driver was hijacked by two armed men who loaded the bomb on board and ordered the driver to deliver it to the target in the center of the city where it exploded causing damage to the station and surrounding properties.
The taxi driver raised the alarm after abandoning the bomb and police said there was a short telephone warning made before the explosion just before 3:30 am (0230 GMT).
Attacks, often aimed at police, have increased since nationalist splinter groups seeking a united Ireland killed two soldiers in March 2009 at an army barracks in County Antrim, northwest of Belfast, and killed a police officer a day later.
Police said Tuesday’s bomb warning was made by a man claiming to represent the Real IRA, which was responsible for killing the two British soldiers last year in Northern Ireland’s deadliest act of violence in more than a decade.
Most analysts agree the groups do not pose a fundamental threat to a 1998 peace deal that largely ended violence between the predominantly Catholic nationalists and mainly Protestant unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.
The three decades of conflict cost more than 3,600 lives.
Derry’s Police commander said the latest attack was further proof that the threat from dissident republicans was severe.
“These are very dangerous people, but the vast majority of people don’t support them,” Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin told local media.
The bombing followed the publication in June of a report into the 1972 killings by British troops of 13 protestors in Derry’s Bloody Sunday which appears to have done much to heal divisions between Catholics and Protestants in the city.
The mayor of the city said the bombing was “morally wrong and utterly futile,” and that the warning the bombers gave police was so short that they were unable to evacuate some people from the area.
“There could have been many killed; we are lucky we are not talking about that today. What do the people doing this think they are about? Do they think they will get a united Ireland by killing the elderly and the young?” Mayor Colm Eastwood told local media.
Writing by Padraic Halpin, Editing by Noah Barkin