IRA firebomb damages Northern Ireland hotel

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IRA firebomb damages Northern Ireland hotel
Members of the Fire Service are seen at the scene of a fire bomb at the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Friday, May, 30, 2014. A masked man has thrown what police have described as a" firebomb" device into the main reception of the hotel late Thursday. The device exploded as the British Army were working to make it safe. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
A Police forensic team examine the damage to the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Friday, May 30, 2014. Damage was caused to the hotel late Thursday after a masked man threw a firebomb device into the main reception area of the hotel. The device exploded as the British Army were working to make it safe, members of staff had managed to lead all guests away shortly before it exploded. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
A Police forensic team examine the damage to the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Friday, May 30, 2014. Damage was caused to the hotel late Thursday after a masked man threw a firebomb device into the main reception area of the hotel. The device exploded as the British Army were working to make it safe, members of staff had managed to lead all guests away shortly before it exploded. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
A member of a police forensic team attends the scene of a firebomb at the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Friday, May 30, 2014. Damage was caused to the hotel late Thursday after a masked man threw a firebomb device into the main reception area. The device exploded as the British Army were working to make it safe, members of staff had managed to lead all guests away shortly before it exploded. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
A member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland attends the scene of the firebomb at the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Friday, May 30, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
William Hastings, owner of the Hastings hotel group that owns the Everglades hotel, arrives at his bomb damaged Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Friday, May 30, 2014. 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. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Police help guests leave the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Friday, May 30, 2014. A masked man has thrown what police have described as a" firebomb" device into the main reception of the hotel late Thursday. The device exploded as the British Army were working to make it safe. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Members of staff and police help guests leave the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Friday, May 30, 2014. A masked man has thrown what police have described as a" firebomb" device into the main reception of the hotel late Thursday. The device exploded as the British Army were working to make it safe. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Riot police patrol the Newtownards road in East Belfast, Northern Ireland, Monday, July 15, 2013. Several blast bombs and petrol bombs have been thrown at police during rioting Monday in east Belfast. A plastic baton round has been fired by police during the trouble on the Newtownards Road. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
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By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
Associated Press

DUBLIN (AP) -- A firebomb detonated Friday in a hotel lobby in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry, but police said a swift midnight evacuation ensured that nobody was injured.

The incendiary device detonated inside the Everglades Hotel in Northern Ireland's second-largest city. Witnesses said a masked man tossed a bag beside the hotel's reception desk, said he was from the Irish Republican Army, and warned that a bomb inside the bag would explode in 30 minutes.

"Someone set off the fire alarm and I called the police," said Gary Rutherford, who had just dropped off relatives at the hotel. "It was quite confusing at the time for most of the guests because they were in bed. It was mayhem."

As British Army experts were deploying a remote-controlled robot to examine the bomb, it exploded and sent flames cascading throughout the evacuated lobby. Nobody was injured.

Politicians and Northern Ireland's future police commander, George Hamilton, said they had no doubt that IRA hard-liners opposed to compromise in the British territory were responsible. Analysts noted that the hotel last week hosted a police recruitment drive for more applicants from the city's mostly Catholic population, a peacemaking goal bitterly opposed by IRA activists.

Hamilton, a regional police commander who was selected Thursday to become the force's chief constable in September, told reporters that remnants of the IRA want to shatter Northern Ireland's peace and economy and "don't actually care about this place or about the citizens."

Most IRA members renounced violence and disarmed in 2005 after failing to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. Breakaway factions still commit shootings and bombings in hopes of undermining Northern Ireland's unity government of British Protestants and Irish Catholics, the central achievement of a 1998 peace accord, as well as the recruitment of Catholics to the province's previously Protestant-dominated police force.

IRA splinter groups remain particularly active in the Catholic west side of Londonderry, which borders the Republic of Ireland. The Everglades Hotel is on the outskirts of Londonderry's predominantly Protestant east side.

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