LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland (Reuters) – Northern Ireland police carried out a controlled explosion on a vehicle that was hijacked by masked men in Londonderry on Monday and were examining two other abandoned vans, two days after a car bomb exploded in the city.
There was a large bang and black smoke from the first van after an army bomb disposal robot entered. Police said the van had been hijacked by three masked men who threw an object in the back before abandoning it on a residential street.
A Royal Mail postal van was hijacked nearby later on Monday by four masked men, one of whom was reported to have a gun, police said. A third vehicle, which a Reuters witness identified as an Asda supermarket delivery van, was abandoned in another part of the city a few hours later.
Officers evacuated homes and cordoned off both areas as they inspected the vehicles. There had also been an attempted hijacking of a local bus elsewhere, they said.
No one was injured in the blast on Saturday outside a court, but the incident highlighted the threat still posed by militant groups opposed to a 1998 peace deal that largely ended three decades of violence in the British-run province.
The blast came at a time when police in Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland have warned that a return to a hard border between the two after Brexit, complete with customs and other checks, could be a target for militants.
However, neither Britain’s Northern Ireland minister, Karen Bradley, nor the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they saw any links between Brexit and the incidents in the province’s second largest city, which lies close to the border with Ireland.