DUBLIN (AP) — A bomb detonated Friday in the lobby of a hotel in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry, but police said a swift evacuation ensured that nobody was injured.
The device detonated inside the Everglades, one of the longest operating hotels in Northern Ireland's second-largest city. Witnesses said a masked man tossed the weapon into the hotel and then fled on foot. The bomb exploded as British Army experts were deploying a remote-controlled robot to examine it.
No group claimed responsibility. Politicians said Irish Republican Army hard-liners opposed to Northern Ireland's peace process were the most likely culprits.
A witness, Gary Rutherford, said he had just dropped off relatives at the hotel entrance when a man covering his face with a mask and hood ran past him, tossed a bag containing the bomb at the reception desk, and warned they had 30 minutes to escape.
"Someone set off the fire alarm and I called the police. It was quite confusing at the time for most of the guests because they were in bed. It was mayhem," said Rutherford, whose family was staying at the hotel in preparation for a relative's funeral Friday.
Small IRA factions continue to mount occasional gun and bomb attacks in hopes of undermining Northern Ireland's unity government of British Protestants and Irish Catholics, the central achievement of a 1998 peace accord.
Londonderry's member of British Parliament, Mark Durkan, said today's IRA die-hards were "trying to drag us all back to worse times."
"The nature of the device, and the manner of this reckless attack, show that they are a threat to anyone and everyone," said Durkan, who represents moderate Irish nationalist opinion in the city.
Most IRA members renounced violence and disarmed in 2005 after failing to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. Breakaway factions remain active in Irish nationalist areas, particularly in the mostly Catholic city of Londonderry, which lies on the border with the Republic of Ireland. The Everglades Hotel is on Londonderry's predominantly Protestant east side.