By Aasma Day
Two men have been arrested by police investigating a car bomb attack in Northern Ireland.
The dissident republican group the New IRA is suspected of being behind the attack which happened shortly after 8pm on Saturday when a vehicle exploded on Bishop Street in Londonderry.
A pizza delivery van was hijacked by two armed men in Derry earlier in the day.
Police and army bomb experts remain at the scene.
Two men, both in their twenties, have been arrested by detectives investigating explosion outside Bishop Street courthouse in Derry/Londonderry.
— PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) January 20, 2019
Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton says the New IRA was their main line of inquiry.
Two men in their 20s were arrested in the city in the early hours of Sunday by detectives investigating the explosion.
Hamilton said: “Our main line of inquiry is against the New IRA.
“The New IRA, like most dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland, is small, largely unrepresentative and determined to drag people back to somewhere they don’t want to be.”
Hamilton described how a pizza delivery driver was hijacked on Saturday evening and his car was packed with explosives before being left outside the court house on Bishop Street in Derry.
His Ford Fusion car was taken off him by at least two armed men. It later had the bomb put in it and left outside the court house between 6pm and 7:23pm.
Hamilton said: “Around three minutes later a phone call went in to the Samaritans in West Midlands in England, which was then passed to West Midlands Police who then contacted us.
“In the intervening minutes we had already found the car and started to evacuate the area. At around 8.09pm, the bomb detonated.
“Fortunately it didn’t kill anybody and fortunately it didn’t cause widespread damage, but clearly it was a very significant attempt to kill people in the local community.”
He added people were evacuated “just in time”.
Those evacuated from nearby buildings included hundreds of hotel guests, 150 people from the Masonic Hall and a large number of children from a church youth club.
No-one was injured in the attack, which has been condemned as “unbelievably reckless.”
Secretary of State Karen Bradley says those responsible would not be permitted to disrupt progress in Northern Ireland.
“The small number of people responsible have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland’s future and will not prevail,” she said.
“Our voices across the political spectrum are united. This is intolerable violence and we want to look forward and build a peaceful future for all in Northern Ireland.”
Mayor of Derry John Boyle said: “I would actually like to ask the people responsible for this what it actually was that they thought they were going to achieve. It achieves nothing, it didn’t achieve anything in the past, it didn’t achieve anything right now.”
The Irish nationalist New IRA is one of a small number of militant groups opposed to a 1998 peace deal that largely ended three decades of violence in the British-run province. They have carried out sporadic attacks in recent years.