Two men were arrested today by police investigating an attempted major bomb attack in Derry linked to dissident republicans.
Officers intercepted a van packed with explosives which was abandoned close to the city’s Foyle Bridge.
Police said the 1,200lb device, which was made safe by British army bomb disposal experts, was primed and would have caused immense damage.
A police spokesman said two men, aged 33 and 24, were taken into custody this morning and were helping officers with their inquiries.
Police intercepted the bomb after noticing a vehicle acting suspiciously on the Foyle Bridge early yesterday morning.
The red Toyota van was later found abandoned on the nearby Clooney Road and police discovered wires and a timer pack when they inspected it.
British army technical officers were called to the scene and, after carrying out a controlled explosion, they found the massive bomb packed into two blue barrels.
Although police could not confirm the target of the attempted bombing, most of the attacks by dissident republican groups in recent years in the area have been carried out at security bases.
The attempted bomb attack was the latest incident in an upsurge in dissident republican activity in the last few days.
The latest discovery follows a similar find by gardaí investigating dissident activities. They recovered 500lb of explosives in Co Louth.
Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness today condemned those responsible for the device in Derry.
“The people who are involved in these activities are involved in these activities because they’re opposed to the peace process and they’re trying to destroy the peace process,” he said.
Chief Inspector George Brien said: “It is still at a very early stage in the investigation but it has all the hallmarks of a dissident republican device.
“It is similar in type to other devices used by that organisation and all recent attacks in the city have been carried out by dissident republicans.
“We don’t know yet what the target was. There are a number of possible targets in the city and the wider area but it is quite clear it was intended for an imminent attack.”
Mr Brien said that the device would have caused a massive amount of damage if it had exploded, adding: “Anybody in the vicinity at all would have been killed or very seriously injured.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said the quick actions of the police had prevented major casualties.
“I want to congratulate the Chief Constable Hugh Orde and his officers on some superb police work this weekend which almost certainly helped to prevent very significant loss of life,” he said.
“My praise for the PSNI officers involved is matched only by my contempt for those who planned to cause chaos and misery.”