Belfast Telegraph

Belfast terror attack - dissidents blamed for murder bid on police officer in Northern Ireland

Man arrested after PSNI man wounded at busy north Belfast petrol station while ACC Hamilton brands shooting 'reckless madness'

By Lisa Smyth

A police officer was last night undergoing surgery after he was shot at least twice in the arm in a suspected dissident republican murder bid in north Belfast.

The officer, shot as he left a busy petrol station on the Crumlin Road at 7.30pm yesterday, was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where his condition was described as stable.

Later, a PSNI spokesman said a 36-year-old man had been arrested.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton has described the attack - which comes as Northern Ireland faces its biggest political crisis in recent years - as an "attempt to murder" two community police officers and said it was "reckless madness".

He paid tribute to the petrol station customers who helped the injured officer and said members of the public could also have been killed during the gun attack, which was carried out just minutes from Tennent Road police station.

"This was a very concerted attack on officers, this was a very concerted attempt to murder them and our main line of enquiry is violent dissident republicans," he said.

"This was very clearly an attack on the community. Other lives could have been lost tonight."

Local residents gathered at the cordon last night said police officers use the filling station on a daily basis.

"If we know about this, then the dissidents know too," one said.

Speaking at a press conference at Musgrave Police Station just hours after the shooting, ACC Hamilton said the officer, who is understood to have recently joined the PSNI, had been shot at least twice but would not be drawn on speculation that an AK47 had been used in the attack.

However, he stressed that police did not return fire during the incident.

He also appealed for information about a silver Audi that was stopped by police a short time later on the nearby Antrim Road, close to its junction with Carlisle Circus.

"There are people out there tonight who know about these people who have escaped from the scene, who are being assisted by others, someone in this community knows something," he continued.

ACC Hamilton said he had visited the injured officer in hospital.

"Last time I saw him, the officer was conscious, he smiled and his family was with him before he was taken for surgery," he said.

"I would ask you to join us in our prayers that he makes a full recovery.

"He appears to have at least two bullet wounds. I'm not a doctor and can't give a full assessment, but he is conscious, he's doing as well as can be expected at this time.

"We're trusting in the medical staff to look after him and hopefully he will make a full recovery."

Chief Constable George Hamilton has condemned the attack, while former First Minister Arlene Foster said it was "a reminder of the threat which still exists in our society".

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