BELFAST, Northern Ireland – British army explosives experts Thursday dismantled a crude bomb in a van that failed to detonate after it was left overnight near the main police station in Londonderry, Northern Ireland's second-largest city.
No group claimed responsibility, but police and politicians blamed Irish Republican Army dissidents opposed to the outlawed group's 1997 cease-fire. Two dissident groups, the Continuity IRA and Real IRA, have mounted sporadic attacks in Northern Ireland since 2000 but rarely issue statements claiming responsibility.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said gunmen hijacked a van Wednesday night on the Catholic west side of Londonderry, and loaded a bomb in the back of the vehicle that included a detonator attached to fuel-filled cylinders.
Police said the driver was ordered to abandon his vehicle outside Strand Road Police Station, which has been bombed more than 100 times since the IRA launched its campaign in 1970 to oust Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.
But Chief Inspector Ken Finney said the driver abandoned the vehicle short of its intended target and telephoned police early Thursday.
Nine homes were evacuated for several hours while army experts blew off the vehicle's doors and took apart the bomb, using a remote-controlled robot.
Finney said the attackers "showed remarkable contempt for the people of this city. Had the blast incendiary exploded, it would have caused untold damage and could easily have led to loss of life."
In recent years, most dissident IRA attacks have either misfired or been intercepted by police. Dissident IRA violence last claimed a life in 2002, when a Protestant construction worker at a closed British army base in Londonderry was blown up by a booby-trapped lunch box.