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Mortar filled with rocks may have been used to target police Land Rover in Belfast

By Claire McNeilly

Published 25/04/2016

Bomb disposal officers carry out searches of the area yesterday
Bomb disposal officers carry out searches of the area yesterday
Masonry believed to have been launched at police
William Humphrey and Bill Lochrie after the paint bomb attack on Clifton Street Orange hall yesterday

A missile that smashed the windscreen of a police Land Rover in west Belfast may have been a mortar containing rocks, according to a witness.

The front windscreen was badly damaged - with two holes clearly visible in the glass - in the attack.

It happened on the Glen Road at around 1am yesterday, just hours ahead of republican and loyalist parades through Belfast city centre.

Forensic tests are ongoing and it is believed that police are looking for explosive residue on the glass, although at this stage they do not know what the object was.

The Glen Road and a number of other roads in the area were closed for a number of hours yesterday while the PSNI and Army bomb disposal officers carried out searches.

Nothing was found.

Detective Sergeant Keith Wilson appealed for witnesses following the attack on the early morning PSNI patrol.

"Police enquiries into exactly what kind of object hit the Land Rover this morning will continue," he said.

It is understood no explosion was reported at the scene and initial searches in the early hours of the morning did not uncover anything definitive to suggest that an explosive device had been aimed.

A police source told the Belfast Telegraph that officers were patrolling the street when there was a "massive bang" on the front window.

"The whole windscreen was smashed - the glass didn't come in but it was pretty badly damaged," he said.

Meanwhile, an eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said there were rocks strewn all over the road in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

"The local community believes that a homemade mortar filled with rocks was used to hit the Land Rover," he said.

Yesterday republicans were blamed for another attack on an Orange hall in Belfast.

North Belfast DUP Assembly candidate William Humphrey condemned those responsible for the overnight paint bomb attack on Clifton Street Orange hall.

After visiting the scene last night, Mr Humphrey said: "Once again Clifton Street Orange hall has been attacked by republican vandals.

"There can be no doubt that the hall was deliberately targeted and paint bombed to coincide with Sunday's Belfast Orange Widows' parade and service, in a clear attempt to raise tensions.

"The intolerant and ignorant bigots behind this sectarian attack have nothing to offer our society going forward.

"They seek to attack, damage and destroy the Orange Institution's property, while at the same time demonstrating a complete intolerance and disrespect for Orange culture and tradition."

The same hall was paint bombed last August, and there was a petrol bombing on the building in June.

Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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