A bomb has exploded in the reception of a Northern Ireland hotel, in the first attack in the province since the bombing of a shopping centre in November.

Thursday's attack was at the luxury Everglades hotel in Londonderry. A device packed into a bag started a fire after it was thrown into the reception of the hotel. 

Staff managed to evacuate the hotel before the device exploded "undoubtedly preventing a tragedy", and the bomb exploded while bomb disposal experts were trying to defuse it. 

No one was injured in the blast and there was no immediate claim of responsibility or explanation of why the hotel was targeted. 

"So many people are working hard to move the city forward, but those behind this device are trying to drag us back to the
worst times," Mark Durkan, local member of parliament, said in a statement.

In the past two weeks, police in the Irish Republic have seized two substantial bombs and made a series of arrests before the devices could be shipped across the border into Northern Ireland for use.

A 1998 peace deal largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland between Protestants who want to remain British and Catholics favouring unification with Ireland, but pockets of division and sporadic violence remain.

Source: Agencies