BELFAST: A Northern Ireland hotel was damaged in a bombing late on Thursday that politicians said was an attempt to drag the province back to its bloody past, but there were no injuries
A 1998 peace deal largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland between Protestants who want to remain British and Catholics favouring unification with Ireland, but pockets of division and sporadic violence remain.
A device packed into a holdall bag started a fire after it was thrown into the reception of the luxury Everglades Hotel in Londonderry. Staff managed to evacuate the hotel before the device exploded, "undoubtedly preventing a tragedy", a Northern Ireland police spokesman said.
The bomb went off while disposal experts were trying to defuse it. It was the first attack in Northern Ireland since the bombing of a shopping mall in November and there was no immediate claim of responsibility or explanation of why the hotel was targeted.
"So many people are working hard to move the city forward, but those behind this device are trying to drag us back to the worst times," local member of parliament Mark Durkan of the republican SDLP party said in a statement.
Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, once a leading figure in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), condemned the attack and said his hometown of Londonderry would not be held back by those living in the past.
In the past two weeks, police in the Irish Republic have seized two substantial bombs and made a series of arrests before the devices could be shipped across the border into Northern Ireland for use.
The hotel attack came hours after a new Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland was appointed.