By Ralph Ellis and Milena Veselinovic, CNN
(CNN) — Police in Northern Ireland said it appears nobody was hurt in a Saturday night car bombing that shook central Londonderry.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland did not name any suspects or say whether anybody was injured. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The police also posted on Facebook that a second suspicious car was checked. “Now we’re just dealing with an extensive crime scene,” police said.
John Boyle, the mayor of Derry/Londonderry posted on Twitter: “Absolutely appalled by this terrible act of violence tonight right in the heart of our city. I utterly condemn this attack which could easily have resulted in loss of life or injury. The perpetrators do not speak for the people of Derry and Strabane!”
‘We have lived through this before’
Gina McFeely said she was in her flat, getting ready to go to her nephew’s 21st birthday party, when she heard a loud bang.
“Everyone in the neighborhood came out into the street,” she said. “Then I saw the car in flames, flames going up, and I said, ‘Oh my God!’ It’s been a long time since a bomb went out in Derry. It was a shock.”
Despite the explosion, she went ahead to the party.
“It doesn’t make me afraid — I am from Derry, we have lived though this before — but it makes me angry,” McFeely said. “We don’t want to go back to this.”
A history of violence
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney condemned the car bombing, tweeting, “There is no place and no justification possible for such acts of terror, which seek to drag Northern Ireland back to violence and conflict.”
The bombing raised fears that sectarian violence might be revived in Northern Ireland, which has been split over the question of whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or become part of Ireland.
More than 3,500 people died in the decades-long conflict known as “the Troubles.” The Good Friday, or Belfast, Agreement of 1998 was a turning point for the region ending years of bloodletting.
In recent years, the two main political parties — the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein — had worked together in a power-sharing executive, but it collapsed in 2017 and despite extensive talks has yet to be restored.
Even the name of the city has been disputed, with nationalists, who are in favor of a united Ireland, calling it Derry and unionists, who want to remain part of the United Kingdom, calling it Londonderry.
The city has a population of about 240,000 in its metro area. It’s about 112 kilometers (70 miles) west of Belfast.
Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion posted on the party website, “This incident has shocked the local community,” she said. “In particular, there are many elderly residents who live in the area who have been alarmed by this incident.”
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster used her official Twitter page to thank emergency services for their quick action “which helped ensure there have been no fatalities or injuries.”
“This pointless act of terror must be condemned in the strongest terms. Only hurts the people of the City. Perpetrated by people with no regard for life,” she said.