A pipe bomb, hidden in a cupboard in a flat at Sperrin Park, Caw, was the width of a wall away from people using Crescent Community and Cultural Centre.
What began on Monday as a drugs search at the flat adjoining the centre ended with Army Technical Officers being brought in to deal with what turned out to be a viable device.
“At 2pm participants in an art class were coming into the centre and were talking about people in forensic clothing next door,” said coordinator Linda Watson.
“At that time we thought it was a drugs raid, but at 3pm I spoke to the police and they said they had found something and half an hour later they came into the centre and said they were sending for the Army Technical Officers and that we were going to have to evacuate the centre and the surrounding 100 yards around the centre. So, at that stage we knew it was something serious.
“We had a class of around 15 people in the centre, an outreach counsellor with a client and we had to get them all out as well as the staff and the volunteers,” she said.
Initiating the emergency evacuation plan, people were decanted to Caw Youth Club and later to The Rosses.
“We had quite a few elderly people and the main aim was to keep them comfortable, fed and watered,” said Linda.
“The police were very good at keeping us up-to-date and at 7pm we were told the device had been made safe. It had been found in a cupboard on a wall adjacent to one of the rooms in the centre. It was a crude, but viable and we don’t know how long it was there. What could have happened just does not bear thinking about.”
Ms Watson thanked and paid tribute to the police, ATO and the staff at the youth club and The Rosses for their help supporting the centre and those effected.
Condemning the incident, Alderman Drew Thompson said: “The people involved in pipe bomb incident at Sperrin Park had no thought for the people living in the flats in the complex, the elderly pensioner’s bungalows and the people who were attending a normal days activities at the community centre.
“I was present at the scene and must pay tribute to the PSNI for the way that they dealt with the incident and the community organisation for the efficient way that they got the local youth club and The Rosses made available to assist residents.
“I understand that this device was in a cupboard in an upstairs flat so whoever was responsible for causing this incident had total disregard for the community and residents and are not welcome in this area.
“I condemn this incident and anyone who has any information should pass this on to the PSNI so that the perpetrators can be apprehended.”