PSNI thwart mortar bomb attack in Derry
on 04/03/2013 09:18:06
They were discovered in the back of a van which had part of its roof cut back as part of plans to bomb a police station in the city, a senior officer confirmed today.
Three men, all in their 30s, were arrested - two at the scene. One was detained in searches afterwards.
It is understood one of the men had been on a motorcycle following the van when police intercepted it near the city centre last night,.
More than 100 homes had to be evacuated in the Brandywell area.
Police commander Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargan said he believed terrorists were just about to launch the attack, probably on one of the Police Service of Northern Ireland stations in Derry, this year's UK City of Culture.
East Derry MP Gregory Campbell claimed: "We were 10 minutes away from a disaster. That is how close we were to a really bad night in Londonderry.
"The mortars were ready to be fired. There could have been dozens of people killed."
Security chiefs were obviously working on good intelligence and had mounted a surveillance operation to foil the attack, he said.
Raymond McCartney, a Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said: "The overwhelming majority of people in Derry will be relieved these weapons are off the streets. There is no place for these people who call themselves dissident republicans in the 21st century."
Mr Cargan said the van had been stopped in Letterkenny Road and four live mortar bombs found.
He said: "They were destined for a police station in the Derry. It was a reckless attack. They were prepared to drive through a built-up area of the city to carry out this attack and cause mass fatalities.
"These devices were primed. They are crude home-made devices and there is no way people who made these bombs would be certain they would have hit their target. There would have been mass murder of police, and serious damage to property.
"Good police work prevented this. If these devices had not been intercepted we would have been looking at a completely different picture. It is a very worrying development. Dissident republicans want to take us back to a place no-one wants to go to."