Belfast Telegraph

Chief Constable admits concern over Twaddell dissident attacks

By Chris Kilpatrick

The Chief Constable has admitted his officers are vulnerable to dissident republican murder bids at a sectarian interface.

Three attempts to kill police close to a loyalist protest camp in north Belfast have been made in the past year.

Last month 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.

Officers said they fear they have been left like "sitting ducks".

It was also claimed the police presence on the Crumlin Road between Ardoyne and Twaddell Avenue has been scaled back in recent months because of budget pressures on the PSNI.

Chief Constable George Hamilton has admitted concern for officers in north Belfast given the routine, highly-visible deployment at the interface.

He revealed changes had been made to patrols following the most recent attack. He told members of the Policing Board: "Following each attack a comprehensive review process is carried out by senior command within the district to ensure all learning is captured and used to inform our patrolling strategy going forward.

"This was again the case following the most recent attack.

"As a result further patrolling changes have been put into effect and will be kept under review to ensure the safety and security of officers continuing to operate in the area."

He added: "The threat to officers across the service remains severe.

"While we try as much as possible to vary routine patrolling and not set patterns in circumstances like those currently experienced in north Belfast the capacity to do so is limited creating vulnerabilities in north Belfast which those intent on violence will always seek to exploit."

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

In recent days police revealed there has been a surge of dissident activity in the past six months, with the rogue terror groups "intent on causing death and disruption" coming up to Christmas.

Security checkpoints have already been put in place throughout Belfast, described as a "premium target", and the PSNI is set to ramp up its presence in towns across Northern Ireland.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said there had been an uplift in the lethal capability of various dissident groupings.

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Last month's grenade attack was the third attempt to murder police officers at the north Belfast interface in the past year.

Previously, another patrol vehicle came under automatic gunfire from dissidents. In October, a crude bomb was thrown at a PSNI vehicle as it drove along the Crumlin Road.

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.

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