Belfast Telegraph

Projectile fired at police vehicle

A rocket or grenade was launched at a police vehicle in Northern Ireland by a suspected dissident republican, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said.

The attacker emerged from a side street in north Belfast and fired a projectile from 60 feet which pierced the outer skin of the Land Rover.

Nobody was injured but the PSNI said it was a calculated attempt to kill officers.

Detectives are examining CCTV and appealed for witnesses who saw a man wearing a dark hooded top and grey bottoms close to Brompton Park late on Sunday night.

Superintendent Muir Clarke said: "It is as close as it comes to officers being killed."

The outer superficial skin of the vehicle was penetrated but armour prevented the projectile from reaching the inside of the vehicle.

The senior officer added: "It was a sophisticated device, it was propelled in some way."

Police are on high alert for attacks by extremists opposed to the peace process. This was the third attack on officers in the area in the recent past, two involving bombs and one a gun.

The vehicle was patrolling a sectarian interface between Catholics and Protestants which has seen serious violence in recent times linked to a disputed Orange Order march.

Mr Clarke added: "It was a completely callous and cold-blooded attack on police officers simply there to protect the community and serve the public.

"It could have killed a number of police officers or could have ricocheted off and killed members of the public. It was totally reckless."

The officers were unhurt but shaken.

The commander added: "Everything would point towards a dissident republican attack. It was a handheld device which was fired at us. It will take some time to positively identify what type of device and how it was fired. It struck the off-side of the Land Rover to break some of the surface, to semi-pierce it.

"The officers are extremely lucky to come away with their lives." He said the device was detonated from 60 feet away.

"Without that armour it could have been a completely different story, we could have been looking at very serious injuries or fatalities."

Parts of the suspected rocket were recovered and are being forensically examined.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "Those who carried out this attack on police officers working to protect all communities are to be utterly condemned for their violent actions."

Sinn Fein Stormont assembly member Gerry Kelly said: "These attacks are wrong and futile. Those behind them have been rejected, time and time again, by the local community who want these attacks to end."

Stormont justice minister David Ford said the attack was clearly designed to kill police officers who were serving the community. "Those who planned and carried out this attack are to be totally condemned. Anyone with information should pass it to the PSNI.

"The perpetrators who hide in the shadows need to be caught and face justice."

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