herald

Sunday 17 February 2019

Hijacked vans blown up as dissidents spread mayhem

Debris bursts from the back of a hijacked and abandoned van during a controlled explosion in Derry yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Debris bursts from the back of a hijacked and abandoned van during a controlled explosion in Derry yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Derry remains on high alert after three separate van hijackings sparked major security alerts and locked down a housing estate.

They came less than 48 hours after a car bomb exploded outside the city's courthouse.

A fifth man was arrested by detectives investigating the blast in Bishop Street.

In the first hijacking, on Creggan's Circular Road at 11.30am yesterday, three masked men threw an object into the back of a Transit van and told the driver to take it to the city centre.

However, the vehicle was abandoned there.

In the second incident at around 1.45pm, four masked men, one with a gun, hijacked a Royal Mail van and ordered the driver to take it to Lonemoor Road.

It was abandoned in the middle of Southway, near pensioners' bungalows.

Up to 50 families were evacuated from their homes during the security operations.

Bomb disposal crews carried out several controlled explosions on the abandoned vehicles.

Last night, police responded to a further report of an abandoned Asda van on Northland Road, close to the Glenbank Road junction.

On Saturday evening, masked men believed to have been aligned to the New IRA dissident republican group, hijacked a pizza delivery van in Derry.

They packed it with explos- ives and abandoned it outside the court building in Bishop Street, where it exploded shortly after 8pm.

Illogical

Police arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with that attack and also an armed robbery in Meadowbank Avenue on January 15.

Two men aged 21 were arrested in the early hours of Sunday and another two men, aged 34 and 42, were arrested that evening.

SDLP MP Mark H Durkan said the attacks were "illogical".

"This incident is yet another major disruption for residents in the Creggan area, on top of the disruption and destruction that was caused in the city centre over the weekend," he said.

"The only people suffering here are local people. These attacks are as illogical as they are unacceptable."

Sinn Fein's Karen Mullan hit out at the disruption to the community.

"It is shocking that our community is being held to ransom and put in danger in this manner today," she said.

"Those who claim to be fighting for Ireland have placed a number of vehicles with suspected devices on board right in the middle of Creggan and the Brandywell, disrupting many residents.

"Those are the same communities and people that they claim to represent."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "The PSNI needs our full support to remove those responsible from our streets.

"Bombs in the 70s and 80s brought nothing but hardship.We will not be dragged back."

The wreckage of the bombed car used in the Bishop Street Court House attack was removed last night.

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