Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin said last night that a grenade thrown at police in Creggan was a viable device and could have claimed lives.
Security forces personnel were investigating a suspicious object at Southway when a man threw the grenade towards them. It didn’t go off and was dealt with by army technical officers.
However the security alert in the area was ongoing last night.
Chief Superintendent Martin said it was only by sheer good fortune they did not have a “fatality on their hands”.
He added: “I thank the community for patience. I can assure them we will not be deterred from doing our duty.”
The alert began when an object was found close to the monastery at Termonbacca. The area was cordoned off and nearby residents were advised to move to the back of their homes but were not evacuated.
However the cordon area had to be extended when the grenade was thrown at around teatime.
A man suspected of throwing the device was seen running off in the direction of Kildrum Gardens.
SDLP Councillor for Creggan Jim Clifford condemned the incident
“Once again the people of Derry have been left inconvenienced and left in fear by people who have no popular support,” he said.
MLA Pat Ramsey added: “When are they ever going to go away and give us all peace? The people of Creggan have suffered enough throughout the Troubles.”
A police spokesman said yesterday evening they were doing their best to bring the alerts to a “swift and safe conlusion.”