Forecourt riddled with bullets in 'completely reckless attack', says PSNI chief

A busy petrol station was sprayed with automatic gunfire during a drive-by shooting that injured a policeman, the North's police chief has said.

Forecourt riddled with bullets in 'completely reckless attack', says PSNI chief

A busy petrol station was sprayed with automatic gunfire during a drive-by shooting that injured a policeman, the North's police chief has said.

Motorists were filling up their vehicles on the forecourt of the North Belfast garage when it was riddled with high-velocity rounds, George Hamilton said.

Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process have been blamed for shooting the police officer as he walked to the shop to buy food.

A 36-year-old man arrested in the wake of Sunday night's attack on the Crumlin Road remained in custody on Monday morning.

The community officer, who was shot twice in the arm and wrist, is in a stable condition in hospital after undergoing emergency surgery overnight.

Mr Hamilton said he faced further surgery.

The PSNI Chief Constable said he believed the shooting was pre-planned.

"Incidents of this nature don't happen ad hoc or in an opportunistic way," he said.

"We'd be pretty convinced this is a planned operation to attack a police office.

"But it was actually an attack on the whole community - there were people filling their cars on that garage forecourt.

"People walking from the forecourt to their cars with bullets whizzing around them and striking the garage forecourt - completely reckless. Whatever people's motivation is for doing this, it is absolutely crazy - just reckless."

Mr Hamilton told BBC Radio Ulster that detectives were investigating whether the officer was actually struck more than twice and if his body armour prevented further more serious injury.

Officers have appealed for anyone who saw an Audi vehicle at the scene to contact detectives.

Dissident republicans have attempted to kill several members of the security forces in Northern Ireland in recent years. Police, soldiers and prison officers have all died at their hands.

The attack comes amid warnings that a political vacuum has been created by the collapse of Stormont power-sharing.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, said: "This attack on the life of an officer is a stark reminder of the determination on the part of terrorists to murder and maim police officers.

"They believe that by causing great grief to a family they are somehow advancing their warped and outdated plan."

He said it underlined the fragility of the peace.

The threat against police is classed as severe and Mr Lindsay warned officers to be vigilant.

The attack comes as Northern Ireland prepares for fresh elections after the collapse of power-sharing.

Former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest over a botched green energy scheme which is predicted to leave taxpayers millions of pounds out of pocket.

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