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Gun attacks favoured by republicans for decades

The security operation where a bomb was placed under a British soldier's van by the 'IRA' in north Belfast last month
Connla Young

THE latest ‘IRA’ attack in west Belfast comes just weeks after the group claimed to have fired shots at a police station in Strabane.

The use of gun attacks is not new and has been used by anti-agreement republicans since the end of the Provisional IRA campaign.

The ‘IRA’ say the ambush was launched at relatively short notice.

It is believed the PSNI had a presence in the area over several nights.

Although the hit-and-run nature of the gun attack tactic makes it difficult for the security forces to counter, to set it up requires a high degree organisation which includes acquiring weapons, getaway vehicles, safe houses and the personnel to carry out the attack.

It would also appear that the gunman was experienced and was more accurate than other 'cowboy' attacks.

The shattered window of the PSNI car’s bullet-proof glass and the passenger door peppered with bullet holes offers proof of that.

Police say the shots may have been fired from a distance of 100 metres, in poor lighting, indicating that the person responsible was well versed in the use of firearms.

The vehicle’s armour plating undoubtedly saved those inside from serious injury or death.

In recent times the ‘IRA’ has used an array of weapons to target the PSNI and British army in Belfast and elsewhere.

In October it claimed it used an automatic weapon to fire shots at a sanger at Strabane PSNI station.

The PSNI later confirmed that officers in the station "heard three loud bangs in the Bowling Green area" of the town.

In December 2013 the ‘IRA’ carried out a gun attack on several PSNI vehicles as they travelled along the Crumlin Road in north Belfast.

There were no injuries although it is believed several shots struck a soft skinned police vehicle.

The previous year the same group shot dead prison officer David Black as he travelled along the M1 motorway to work at Maghaberry Prison.

The ‘IRA’ has also carried out several other attacks on the security forces using a range of improvised and homemade weapons.

In November last year it used a ‘drop and go’ grenade launcher to target a police Land Rover at Ardoyne in north Belfast.

In March it fired an explosively formed projectile (EFP) at a police Land Rover on the Falls Road.

Similar devices have also been used to target police in Derry.

Earlier this year the Irish News revealed the group had left a remote-controlled bomb for police in Ardoyne in north Belfast which failed to explode.

It also shot dead alleged drug dealer Kevin Kearney in Belfast in October 2013.

In March 2009 two British soldiers were shot dead during a republican gun attack at Massereene British army base.

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