Northern Ireland

Officers injured in Londonderry bombing

Two police officers were injured after a car bomb exploded in Londonderry on Monday night.

The Real IRA has admitted responsibility for the device which was left close to the Ulster Bank on the Culmore Road.

The police said the bomb was more than 200lb, bigger than the car bomb attack on the city in August.

The officers received neck and ear injuries when they were knocked to the ground.

The details were revealed by the police commander for the area, Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin, at a news conference on Tuesday.

Tourists

He said that police believe the Ulster Bank and the local hotel were not the intended targets and that the bomb may have been left because of a police presence in the area.

He also confirmed that up to 200 people were in the hotel when the warning was received.

"We had tourists from America and Japan and other countries moved out of a hotel in this city in the middle of the night because of a bomb," he said.

"Last week we had President Clinton here, talking to people about inward investment, talking about the City of Culture, the prospect of 3,000 jobs.

"Last night we had the response from these so-called dissident groups, we had their views on the economy - their views are to destroy the jobs in Derry."

The bank and several shops were damaged in the attack.

The area had been cleared when the bomb exploded. However, the officers, who were standing close to the cordon, were blown off their feet by the blast.

Wreckage

Masonry and glass from smashed windows were strewn across the Culmore Road.

Throughout the night, army bomb experts examined the wreckage of the Vauxhall Corsa car that contained the bomb.

The bank was badly damaged, and the area around the explosion remains cordoned off.

The Real IRA contacted the office of a newspaper on Tuesday morning to say it was responsible for the attack.

It is not the first time it has targeted the Culmore Road branch of the Ulster Bank.

Last year, it said it was responsible for sending bullets to relatives of police officers working in the branch.

There have been a number of attacks in recent months which have been blamed on dissident republicans.

In August, a car containing 200lb of explosives went off outside Strand Road police station in the city, causing substantial damage.

Two men hijacked a taxi in the Bogside, loaded the bomb into the driver's car and ordered him at gunpoint to leave it at the station.

'Conflict junkies'

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson said the government would "not allow these people to achieve their aim".

He said the authorities would tackle those responsible and would "smoke them out" and "bear down on them".

The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he condemned "the futile activities of these conflict junkies".

He said: "The objectives of these people are to destroy the peace process; to break the unity of the Executive; to turn back the clock on policing and to embarrass Sinn Fein.

"On all four counts they have been failing miserably."

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the bomb would cause "massive inconvenience" to schools, work and tourists.

"There is unanimous support across the political divide for condemnation of this," he said.

Mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood was at the scene when the device exploded.

Image caption A warning was given before the device exploded, causing extensive damage

"I saw the bomb go off. We were not far away," he said.

"It is just shocking that someone would put a bomb anywhere, but especially at a commercial centre."

Businessman Garvan O'Doherty, the owner of Da Vinci's Hotel, said the focus should remain on peace.

"The vast majority are focused on the partnership approach to peace. This will not detract those of us who want a stable society," he said.

Mr O'Doherty said the way forward was for the peace process to continue.

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