Ardoyne gun attack: Lucky escape for police after dissidents open fire on police convoy in north Belfast
Officers escaped injury last night after dissident republicans aimed a volley of automatic fire at three PSNI vehicles in north Belfast.
The shooting on the Crumlin Road near Brompton Park occurred at 6.45pm. Up to 15 shots were fired at moving police vehicles from what was described as an automatic high-velocity rifle.
Three police Land Rovers were struck but there were no reports of any injuries.
A burnt-out car was attended to by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service a short time later in nearby Butler Place.
Loyalist protesters had just started to gather at their protest camp at Twaddell Avenue.
District Commander, Chief Superintendent George Clarke, condemned those responsible. He said: "Police are treating this attack as attempted murder of officers as they were providing a service to the community of north Belfast. It is to be utterly condemned by all right-minded members of society and I urge anyone with any information to contact police immediately.
"How do you advance any cause by trying to kill police officers?"
The shooting is the latest event in an escalation of dissident activity.
The nearby loyalist camp thought it was coming under fire last night and scenes of panic ensued.
Around 20 demonstrators were gathered when the sound of gunfire rang out.
Eight women fled from the scene.
Mother-of-three Elizabeth Clarke (44) told of her terrifying experience.
"We were just chatting when we heard the gunfire.
"Someone shouted 'run', and we ran. We were taking no risks or chances and had to get away.
"It was frightening, we were literally running for our lives.
"We are supposed to be safe, we are supposed to be in peace."
It's believed two shots were fired toward the camp itself.
One badly shaken protester told the Belfast Telegraph she thought she was "going to die".
West Belfast UPRG representative Isaac Andrews said it was "terrifying".
"We were in the camp when we heard the shots. Two came overhead.
"Both men and women were physically shaking. We were just thankful no one was hurt."
Twaddell Avenue protest camp spokesman Gerald Solinas blamed dissident republicans for the attack.
"I was a soldier and had taken fire before, and I knew what it was and they had obviously used high-velocity weapons. I'd say a 7.62 AK47 rifle."
He added: "It's just another unscrupulous attack from yesterday's men."
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned the attack.
He said there appeared to be a growing dissident threat within Ardoyne.
"This would obviously appear to be the work of dissident republicans and I would hope that the community in Ardoyne will stand against those responsible and with the police as they carry out their investigations.
"There does appear to be a growing dissident threat within Ardoyne and we have seen the intent and capability of these terrorists in Belfast all too clearly in recent weeks.
"This was a clear attempt to murder police officers with shots fired from Ardoyne at the Land Rovers. Thankfully no one was injured in this attack but it is vital that those responsible are identified and brought to justice," said Mr Dodds.