PSNI officers 'lucky to be alive'

PSNI officers 'lucky to be alive'

Police officers whose vehicle was hit by gunfire as they were on patrol in Belfast are lucky to be alive, their commander has said.

The murder bid on the Suffolk Road last night was the second time officers had been fired at in the city in less than 24 hours.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Land Rover was hit by two bullets as it drove along the road in west Belfast at around 11.45pm last night. No one was injured in the incident.

On Thursday night 10 shots were fired at a police patrol in the north of the city. Again officers involved escaped injury.

Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process are suspected of carrying out both attacks, which are the latest in a series of attempts to target members of the security forces.

PSNI district commander for the area, Chief Superintendent George Clarke, said his officers would not be deterred from doing their job.

“For the second night in a row, dedicated community police officers have found themselves under attack from terrorists,” he said. It is fortunate that we are not dealing with fatalities this morning and those responsible are to be utterly condemned for their evil and reckless actions.

“These officers go out each day to serve this community and they should be free to do so without the threat of attack. I know that this incident will not deter them or their colleagues from continuing with that work, helping people and making society safer.

“I again urge the community to support us. We need information from the community to help us defeat those who seek to take us back to the past by showing them that they do not represent the wishes of this community.”

A military-grade Kalashnikov weapon was used to fire the shots at police vehicles which were towing digital signs through a residential area near Ardoyne on Thursday night.

Two vehicles and one digital sign were hit by the bullets as they passed by what is a flashpoint inner city area which has seen serious violence in recent times linked to dissident activity and contentious loyal order marches. Police have recovered one weapon.

The threat posed by dissident republicans remains classed as severe. They have killed two police officers, two soldiers and a prison officer in the past five years.

Recently letter bombs have been posted to senior police commanders and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. A car bomb attack at a Belfast city centre car park was thwarted last month.

West Belfast Assembly member Alex Attwood called for those engaged in violence to stop and recognise the hurt they are causing the community.

“This attack on the PSNI on patrol in west Belfast could have resulted in loss of life,” said the SDLP representative.

“I condemn this attempt to kill police officers. Those engaged in this type of reckless violence are not advancing any political ideal, they are hurting the community they claim to represent.

“A worrying trend is beginning to appear in regards to such attacks on the police across the city, this is the second incident in as many days.”

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