Police in Derry have foiled a dissident Republican bomb attack which one local politician has claimed was intended to cost lives.

Three men have been arrested after the police thwarted what was believed to be a planned mortar.

The Daily Telegraph reports that officers rammed a van close to Derry’s city centre in an undercover operation.

They discovered four mortar bombs in the back of the van which had part of its roof cut back as part of plans to bomb a police station in the city.

The report says two men were detained at the scene while a third was arrested in follow-up searches. All three men in custody are in their 30s.

Ambulances were needed to move elderly and infirm residents as more than 100 homes had to be evacuated when the police moved in on the vehicle close to the junction of Letterkenny Road and Foyle Road.

Surveillance of dissident republicans opposed to Sinn Fein’s peace process strategy has been ongoing amid fears of new attacks in the city, this year’s UK City of Culture.

Police involved in the operation were attacked by people throwing stones with at least one petrol bomb also thrown.

Local SDLP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Pat Ramsay told the paper that it was clear that a viable device had been recovered.

He said: “It looks as if police kept death off the streets of Derry.

“I was appalled when I saw a petrol bomb getting thrown at a police car. No-one was injured but it was very upsetting.

“Older people and very disabled people have had to be moved from their homes. There was a lady, a double amputee and two disabled people who needed the assistance of an ambulance to get them out.

“This is the distress that the dissidents are causing to their own people in their own communities.”