Dissident power struggle as rival groups vie for supremacy with attacks on police
Dissident terror groups will not turn republican areas into no-go zones for police, a PSNI chief has vowed, as rival factions continue their deadly battle for supremacy.
Police patrols were fired on in Belfast on consecutive nights in the past week.
The first attack took place in north Belfast on Thursday, followed by a similar murder bid in the west of the city the next night.
Police said the officers were lucky to be alive and uninjured.
A 34-year-old man was arrested in north Belfast yesterday morning and taken to Antrim police station for questioning about Thursday night’s shooting.
Dissident republicans are suspected of carrying out both attacks, which are the latest attempts to target security forces.
There are fears dissident factions are embroiled in a deadly competition to kill officers.
Officers on both sides of the border are concerned at the fallout from the three-cornered battle between the well-established Continuity IRA, the group which calls itself Oglaigh na hEireann, and the latest dissident alliance, the New IRA.
A power struggle between the New IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann is tense in Ardoyne.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott recently confirmed the battle for headline-grabbing attacks.
“They seem to be in some form of bizarre competition to make sure they have a profile,” he said.
PSNI Chief Superintendent George Clarke said gun attacks would not prevent police officers from doing their jobs.
“These officers go out each day to serve this community and they should be free to do so without the threat of attack,” he said.
West Belfast Assembly member Alex Attwood admitted the rise in dissident activity was “a worrying trend”.
“Those engaged in this type of reckless violence are not advancing any political ideal, they are hurting the community they claim to represent,” he said.
DUP councillor Brian Kingston said dissident groups were “trying to drag society back into bloodshed that the vast majority of people do not wish to see”.
Thursday’s incident happened just yards from the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue, near the Ardoyne.
A leading loyalist community worker — who was present when the shots were fired — said dissidents were “upping the ante”.
“It was a calculated operation designed for maximum provocation given the proximity of the civil rights camp, the timing and the personnel targeted,” said PUP spokesman Winston Irvine.
Rogue republicans have been responsible for a number of attacks in Belfast and Londonderry recently. Two weeks ago a car bomb packed with 130lb (60kg) of explosives partially detonated outside the Victoria Square complex in Belfast city centre. The car used to carry the bomb was hijacked in Ardoyne and the driver forced to take it into the city.