Beer-keg bomb defused outside Ulster court

BRITISH Army experts in Northern Ireland have defused a bomb that was packed into a beer keg and abandoned near the courthouse in Londonderry, a mostly Catholic city where IRA dissidents are particularly active.

No faction of the Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the latest bombing attempt in Londonderry.

Police evacuated the nearby Protestant cathedral and its choir boys, as well as a retirement home, and moved the courthouse’s cases to other towns.

The city’s police commander, Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin, said one of two splinter groups was responsible: Either the Real IRA or Oglaigh na hEireann, which is Gaelic for “volunteers of Ireland”.

Chief Superintendent Martin said the bomb contained about 50 kilograms of homemade explosive and was delivered to the courthouse in a car stolen on Sunday on the Catholic west side of the city.

He declined to explain why the bomb failed to detonate, saying he didn’t want to tip the bombmaker about any design fault.

Dissidents opposed to the IRA’s 1997 ceasefire and 2005 disarmament have mounted a string of bombings, particularly in Londonderry, the second-largest city in the British territory. They detonated two car bombs in the city last year near a hotel and a major police base, damaging several businesses but injuring nobody seriously in either blast.

Politicians from both the British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of the community appealed today to the dissidents to quit. Both sides vowed that nothing would undermine the unity government they forged in 2007 under terms of the territory’s 1998 peace accord.

Sinn Fein politician Martina Anderson said in comments directed at the dissidents that Londonderry’s residents were focused on “building for the future … but you will still be stuck in the past with not a progressive thought between you”.

“So get real, pack up your tent and go home,” said Anderson, a former IRA member who spent 13 years in prison after being convicted of membership in an IRA unit waging a mid-1980s bomb campaign in England.

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