Police have arrested two men following last night’s car bomb attack in Derry city centre.
Both men are in their twenties and remain in custody this afternoon.
In a press conference, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the device used was a "crude but also very unstable device."
He said the car used in the attack was hijacked by two armed men shortly before the explosion.
Police in Derry have released CCTV footage of a car stopping outside the Courthouse on Bishops St last night pic.twitter.com/0fMxK2mqm5
— Barry Whyte (@BarryWhyte85) January 20, 2019
Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton also confirmed that police received a 10-minute warning before the device exploded.
The warning was delivered to a Samaritans helpline before being passed on to police.
“We were starting to evacuate the area and at about 20:09 the bomb detonated here in city,” he said.
“Fortunately it didn’t kill anybody and fortunately it didn’t cause widespread damage.
“But clearly it was very significant attempt to kill people here in this community last night.”
He said the “main line of inquiry” is that the attack was carried out by a dissident group calling themselves the New IRA.
He described the group as “small, largely unrepresentative and determined to drag people back to somewhere they don't want to be.”
The explosion erupted near a court house in the city.
No one was injured in the blast – however hotels, bars and clubs in the area were evacuated.
In a statement earlier this morning Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton said officers on patrol spotted a “suspicious vehicle and were making checks” at around 7:55pm.
He said around five minutes later “information was received that a device had been left at the courthouse.”
"We moved immediately to begin evacuating people from nearby buildings including hundreds of hotel guests, 150 people from the Masonic Hall and a large number of children from a church youth club,” he said.
Police in Derry have made two arrests in relation to last nights suspected car bomb attack outside the Courthouse in the city. pic.twitter.com/i35QUYb7pG
— Barry Whyte (@BarryWhyte85) January 20, 2019
"At this stage it appears as though the vehicle used had been hijacked from a delivery driver in the Quarry Street area a short time before the explosion.”
He described the attack as “unbelievably reckless.”
“Thankfully the attackers failed to kill or injure any members the local community out socialising and enjoying the best of what the city has to offer,” he said.
"The people responsible for this attack have shown no regard for the community or local businesses.
“They care little about the damage to the area and the disruption they have caused.”
He thanked the local community for their “support and co-operation” and urged anybody with any information to contact police.
In the moments after the explosion, the PSNI posted a photo online showing a burning vehicle on Bishop Street in the city centre's Foyle area with the caption "STAY AWAY. Suspected car bomb."
Police warned that officers were concerned about a second car on the street, as they widened their cordon.
"As far as we know no one injured," the PSNI in Foyle said.
"There is another car we are not happy about. There are ongoing necessary evacuations.
"If you live in Bishop Street or Bishop Street Without look at potentially making preparations to leave."
The area remains sealed off this morning.
A police cordon near the scene of a car bomb blast on Bishop Street in Derry city, 20-01-2019. image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images
Michael Williams was in his house nearby when he heard and felt the bomb.
"There was a very large boom and everything started to shake for just a second as the shock passed over,” he said.
"We went out into the street and couldn't see anything at first but then we could see the police up on Bishop Street.
"Everything sort of shook, my desk was shaking, I was shaking, my chair was shaking."
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said there is "no place and no justification possible for such acts of terror, which seek to drag Northern Ireland back to violence and conflict.”
I utterly condemn the car bomb terrorist attack in Derry this evening. There is no place and no justification possible for such acts of terror, which seek to drag Northern Ireland back to violence and conflict. @RTENewsNow https://t.co/sKUaXGCx5b
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) January 19, 2019
The city’s mayor John Boyle urged those responsible to reveal what their aim was and what they "thought they were going to achieve.”
"It achieves nothing, it didn't achieve anything in the past, it didn't achieve anything right now," he said.
"I have a question for them, what was this all about, because quite frankly this is not something that the people of this city wanted to see, it's not something they support."
Police near the scene of a car bomb blast on Bishop Street in Derry city, 20-01-2019. Image: Steven McAuley/PA Wire/PA Images
Sinn Fein MP for Foyle, Elisha McCallion, quickly condemned the blast.
"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.
"Thankfully no one appears to have been injured.
"Derry is a city moving forward and no one wants this type of incident. It is not representative of the city.”
"I would encourage anyone with information about this incident to bring it to the police."
DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was a "pointless act of terror" that "must be condemned in the strongest terms."
Additional reporting from IRN