Device explodes in N.Ireland bank; no injuries: officials

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A device exploded in a Northern Ireland bank on Saturday, but without causing injuries, one day after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II concluded a historic trip across the border in Ireland.

The early afternoon blast in a shopping district of Londonderry also comes ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to the Republic of Ireland on Monday and amid recent unrest in British-ruled Northern Ireland.

"There has been an explosion in the Shipquay Street area.... There are no reports of any injuries," a police statement said.

A police spokesman added in a telephone call with AFP: "We believe it was a sort of device".

The targeted area of Londonderry, a city close to the border with Ireland, was evacuated following a warning, however the device did not undergo a controlled explosion.

Martina Anderson, a member of Northern Ireland's devolved legislature, said the small blast occurred inside a branch belonging to Spanish banking group Santander.

"It was a loud thud," said Anderson, a member of the republican Sinn Fein party.

The incident comes after the queen on Friday ended a four-day trip to Ireland aimed at reconciliation following the peace established in Northern Ireland as a result of a 1998 accord.

The state visit was surrounded by a massive security operation amid threats from dissident republicans opposed to any British presence on Irish soil.

Ahead of the queen's trip -- the first by a British monarch since the Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1992 -- police had received a coded bomb threat for London from Irish republicans.

During the visit, the queen expressed regret and "deep sympathy" to the victims of Britain and Ireland's turbulent shared history in a speech seen as setting a new tone in relations between the two countries.

Although the queen stopped short of a full apology for Britain's actions when it ruled Ireland, she said it was "impossible to ignore the weight of history", while those who lost their lives could never be forgotten.

Across the border in Northern Ireland, peace has held up relatively well since the 1998 peace accords signed between Catholics and Protestants.

The Good Friday Agreement had largely ended the province's three decades of violence, known as The Troubles, which pitted Catholic republicans seeking to break away from the United Kingdom against Protestant unionists.

However the province was rocked last month after a Northern Ireland policeman was killed in a car bomb attack.

Ronan Kerr, 25, a Catholic recruit was killed by a booby-trap under his car outside his home in Omagh, the scene of Northern Ireland's worst terror atrocity. Senior politicians pointed towards dissident republicans for the murder.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Ireland was preparing to welcome US President Barack Obama to one of his ancestral homelands.

The US leader is making a 24-hour trip to Ireland on Monday and is set to make a speech to tens of thousands in Dublin's College Green road, where one of his Democratic predecessors Bill Clinton gave an address in 1995.

Reports suggest he may speak about immigration -- a pressing issue in the United States -- drawing on the experiences of millions of Irish who crossed the Atlantic.

© 2011 AFP

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