Saturday 17 March 2018

Brave bus driver thwarts bomb attempt

The bus in Derry used in the attempted bomb attack. Margaret McLaughlin
The bus in Derry used in the attempted bomb attack. Margaret McLaughlin

Shawn Pogatchnik

A bus driver in the North was commanded by suspected IRA militants to deliver a bomb to a police station, but instead she parked her vehicle and called police, authorities who praised the driver's bravery said yesterday.

No group claimed responsibility for the failed attack in Derry on Wednesday night, but police and politicians blamed IRA militants, who are particularly active in the predominantly Catholic city, with high unemployment where the extremists are based.

Government leaders praised the unidentified driver for refusing to deliver the bomb as instructed after police said they recovered a viable bomb on board the bus. About 70 nearby homes were evacuated.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, in a tweet, praised "the courage of the bus driver who last night prevented a bomb attack on the peace process in Derry".

Translink, which operates Northern Ireland buses, said two masked men dropped a bag containing the bomb on the woman's bus and ordered her to drive it to the police HQ in Derry. IRA members have repeatedly targeted the fortified building.

The driver told the militants she would, but she parked the bus at a stop and called police.

The episode illustrates the limits of today's small IRA splinter groups. The dominant faction, the Provisional IRA, killed nearly 1,800 people before calling a ceasefire in 1997 and renouncing violence in 2005. Breakaway factions have killed a half-dozen people, but most of their attacks fail either because bombs are badly designed or police surveillance thwarts the attack.

The Provisional IRA pioneered the use of civilian drivers to deliver bombs in 1973, adopting the tactic to avoid the risk of their own members being arrested.

The Provisionals ruthlessly enforced the threats by taking the driver's family hostage and threatening to kill them if the driver stopped short of the target.

Sometimes the Provisionals also followed the victimised driver in a second car and warned they would detonate the bomb, killing the driver, if they tried to raise an alarm.

Irish Independent

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