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'IRA' claims it fired shots at PSNI car in Belfast

Belfast Commander Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw at the police car that was ambushed in west Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Connla Young

A REPUBLICAN paramilitary group called the ‘IRA’ has claimed responsibility for a gun attack on PSNI officers in west Belfast.

In a statement to the Irish News the organisation said its members used an AK-47 to target officers on Thursday night.

Up to eight shots were fired into the passenger side of a police car in the Rosnareen area of Andersonstown.

An experienced gunman is believed to have carried out the gun attack from a range of up to 100 metres.

Two officers in the car were uninjured but were said to be badly shaken.

Using a recognised codeword on Friday night, the ‘IRA’ said if "any opportunity arises we will attack" members of the security forces.

The organisation claimed that one of the high velocity rounds which struck the car was a "head shot" which would have killed without the bullet-proof glass in the police car

The group said that the gun attack plan was put together once the PSNI vehicle was spotted in the traditionally republican area.

"They say this area is highly policed and we are still able to get in there and carry out an attack like this," it said.

"The IRA has shown in Belfast and elsewhere they can carry out attacks, including rocket, bombings and shootings."

The group said recent events have shown that claims that militant republicans are heavily infiltrated are untrue.

Last month the ‘IRA’ claimed responsibility for placing a bomb under a van used by an off duty British soldier in north Belfast.

The device failed to explode.

Two PSNI officers were sitting in the parked grey Vauxhall Insignia when it was attacked by a single gunman at around 7pm on Thursday.

Police have confirmed that the shots were fired at a distance of up to 100 metres in poor light, giving rise to suggestions that the gunman was experienced in the use of firearms.

The passenger side of the car was peppered with bullet holes while several rounds shattered bullet proof glass fitted in the vehicle.

The attackers escaped from the area in a black BMW, which was parked in the nearby Tullagh Park area.

It had been fitted with false southern number plates and was later found burnt out at Cluain More in the Beechmount area of west Belfast.

The PSNI car was parked close to where traveller Martin Gavin was shot in the head as he sat in his car last Friday.

It is understood the PSNI have maintained a regular presence in the area since the shooting, which is not believed to be paramilitary related.

Chief superintendent Nigel Grimshaw described the attack as "mindless and reckless" and said the police car’s protective plating saved the officers from death.

"There is absolutely no question in mind that were it not for the protective capacity in terms of the vehicle that the officers were in we would have been looking at fatalities," he said.

"An absolute tragedy this would have been in the mouth of Christmas, not something we want to see in Belfast city."

The senior officer denied that there were any ‘no-go’ areas in Belfast but admitted the threat from republican groups is "severe."

"Of course we have been saying for quiet some number of years now that the level of threat is at severe and has been for a long time and that means that officers do step out each day with the real possibility they might be subject to attack," he said.

"But they do it none the less, they go out and they are working with people on the ground, they are working with communities and we are delivering better and better services from a policing perspective and we wont be prevented from doing that."

Chief superintendent Grimshaw said the attack "displayed great planning and preparation."

Sinn Féin assembly member Alex Maskey condemned the attack.

"Those responsible have nothing to offer the community, they do not speak for local people and need to end these reckless and futile actions immediately," he said.

"We will not allow them to drag us back to the past."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the attack as "unjustifiable."

"Those engaged in violence for dissident political purposes have failed to learn the lessons of our past and they have failed to abide by the will of the people of Ireland.

"They are doing a massive disservice to the cause of nationalism and only succeed in delaying the challenge of reconciliation and the prospects of Irish unity.

"Their fight is not with the British Government or with the PSNI. They need to know that their fight is with us. It is with the Irish people. There can only ever be, and has only ever been, one winner in that fight.

"Whether it’s in west Belfast, west Tyrone, Derry or Dublin; the people of Ireland will resist those who attempt to resurrect the violence of the past."

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