Three men have been arrested in the wake of an attempted bomb attack on a police officer in the North.
The suspects, aged in their late 20s and late 30s, were detained just across the border in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, at about 4am this morning.
The Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device was found attached to the serving officer’s vehicle at Glenrandel in the village of Eglinton on the outskirts of Derry city.
Police said it was capable of causing “death or serious injury”.
A Garda spokeswoman said the men were being held at stations in Letterkenny and Milford.
The car will also be subject to a technical examination and searches are continuing in the vicinity of where it was stopped, she added.
The finger of blame has been pointed towards dissident republicans opposed to the peace process. The violent extremists are waging a campaign to target members of the security forces in the North.
Derry district commander superintendent Mark McEwan condemned those responsible.
He said: “The target of focus of the investigation is violent dissident republicans.
“This could have been a tragedy.
“This officer serves the community day and daily. He keeps people safe. Someone has crept in and planted a bomb underneath his car.”
The alarm was raised when police were alerted to suspicious activity outside the house at about 2.45am this morning. Army bomb experts were called to the scene and declared that a viable device had been found.
It is understood the targeted officer’s wife is also a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Superintendent Mark McEwan added: “This device had the potential to harm not only the officer but anyone in that residential area and those involved have shown a blatant disregard for human life. This is yet another example of the cowardly elements in our society who show no regard for the safety of local residents and the police officers who serve their community.”
The Glenrandel area remains closed to traffic and residents. Around 15 houses, including those with a number of elderly residents, were evacuated during the security alert.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and the region’s Justice Minister David Ford have led the condemnation.
Ms Villiers said those who planted the bomb acted in defiance of the wishes of the vast majority of people who wanted to see a peaceful and prosperous future.
Mr Ford said a tragedy had been narrowly averted.
He said: “I unreservedly condemn the people who hide in darkness and seek to use extreme violence. No rational person can see that as a way forward.”
Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), described the planting of the bomb as an act of madness.
He said: “There is a network of people responsible for this act of madness. They obtained the components for the device. They made the device, targeted the officer and planted it under the officer’s car in a cold-blooded attempt to murder.
“They didn’t care who else they killed or injured. Their only objective is to drag us back to darkness and hopelessness and I want to appeal to the community to help the police track down the culprits of this cowardly attack.”
There has also been condemnation from both sides of the political divide.
First Minister Peter Robinson appealed for the community to unite against the terrorists.
He said: “Everyone must stand united against those who would use violence and terror in our society and I unreservedly condemn those behind this incident.
“It is vital that those responsible are identified and brought to justice and I would urge anyone with information to pass it to the police.”
Ulster Unionist Party policing spokesman Ross Hussey said the would-be bombers were cowards.
Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney said he was grateful no one was hurt.
Mr McCartney said: “Thankfully no one was injured in this attack but we could have been facing serious injuries or worse.
“This is a city moving forward and the vast majority of people do not want these type of attacks and do not support them.
“Those responsible are not representative of the people of Derry and won’t be allowed to drag us back to the past.”
In a joint statement, Derry’s four main church leaders said the attack was unjustifiable.
Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop Ken Good, Dr Robert Buick and the Rev Peter Murray said: “We are appalled at the despicable attempt to murder a police officer in Eglinton this morning, and thankful and relieved that the attack was thwarted.
“There can be no justification for the attempted murder. It was wrong. It was evil. It was reckless. The police have said those who left the device endangered not only the police officer but other people living in the area.”
Police have appealed for anyone who may have been in the Glenrandel area at about 2.45am this morning or in recent days and who witnessed anything untoward to come forward.