Belfast Telegraph

North Belfast Twaddell interface police officers: We are sitting ducks for dissident republican terror squads

By Chris Kilpatrick

Police officers guarding an interface in north Belfast fear they have been left like "sitting ducks" following a surge in dissident republican attacks.

It is claimed the police presence on the Crumlin Road between Ardoyne and Twaddell Avenue has been scaled back in recent months due to budget pressures on the PSNI.

One serving officer in the area said he and his colleagues were deeply concerned for their safety and had been raising these concerns for several weeks.

The officer said police tasked to the interface felt their every move was being watched by dissident republicans, and fear further attempts on their lives in the coming months.

A senior police officer last night said the PSNI was making every effort to protect both its officers and the public.

On Sunday evening a man ran out of Brompton Park with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher before firing it at a PSNI Land Rover close to the loyalist camp at Twaddell.

The lethal device passed through the vehicle's outer skin but ricocheted off heavier armour on the driver's side. The officers inside were badly shaken but uninjured.

It was the third attempt to murder police officers at the interface in the past year.

Previously, another patrol vehicle came under automatic gunfire from dissidents.

And, in October, a crude bomb was thrown at a PSNI vehicle as it drove along the Crumlin Road.

"Many of us feel like sitting ducks," a police officer told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday.

"On many occasions there is only one vehicle at the scene meaning we can't watch each other's backs like we did before.

"We feel wide open. There have been people complaining about it over the past couple of weeks and what happened the other night has made people even more afraid.

"These guys are watching everything we do. They know when we are in soft-skin vehicles, when we are easy targets."

Police have had a permanent presence at the Twaddell camp since it was set up in July 2013.

Around £40,000 is spent on the policing operation every night.

In response to the police officer's claims, PSNI Superintendent Muir Clark said: "For any given area, police review resourcing levels against threat, risk and demand for service.

"As such, the number of officers in any given area can fluctuate depending on the range of issues that police are managing.

"Every effort is made to protect both members of the public and officers, indeed, tactical support officers are regularly utilised to support district officers in policing north Belfast. Officers are regularly briefed on the range of tactical options that exist and the need to utilise these."

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds hit out at Monday night's "deplorable attempt to murder police officers serving in their line of duty", while Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the murder attempts on police were reprehensible.

"These attacks are wrong and futile," he said.

"Those behind these attacks have been rejected time and time again by the local community.

"The only thing they achieve is to bring disruption to the lives of the local community.

"It is reprehensible that these officers would be targeted as they attempt to make communities safer," he added.

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