Man arrested after officer wounded in Belfast drive-by shooting

Community officer injured in arm at filling station in attack being blamed on dissidents

One man has been arrested after a policeman was shot and wounded in Belfast. Video: Reuters

 

A man aged 36 has been arrested after a policeman was shot in a drive-by attack in north Belfast, the PSNI has said.

The community officer was injured in the arm at a filling station in an attack being blamed on dissident republicans.

He is stable in hospital. Police appealed for public support as they opened a major investigation.

PSNI assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton said: “This was a very concerted attack on our officers - a very concerted attempt to murder them.

“Our main line of enquiry at the minute is violent dissident republicans.

“One arrest has already been made.”

Filling station

The apparent attempted murder happened at the Edenderry filling station on the Crumlin Road at about 7.30pm.

It is believed the officer was wounded in the arm. The PSNI has appealed for anyone who witnessed the shooting to contact them.

It is understood the officer was shot after shots had been fired from a car at or close to the filling station.

The PSNI said at this stage they believe the officer’s injuries to be “non life-threatening”.

The area was sealed off as police investigated the shooting.

DUP leader and former first minister Arlene Foster has deplored the attack, which may be the work of dissident republicans.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny condemned the shooting as an “outrageous and cowardly” act.

“Anyone with any relevant information should pass it on to the PSNI immediately,” Mr Kenny said in a statement, adding that he hoped the officer involved made a fully and swift recovery.

Political crisis

The attack comes as Northern Ireland is embroiled in a political crisis over an eco-friendly heat renewal scheme, now known as “cash-for-ash”.

In a tweet, Ms Foster wrote: “Utterly condemn the shooting of a police officer in North Belfast - the work of cowards. Praying they make a full recovery.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin condemned the attempted murder as “appalling and deeply shocking,” saying:

“The PSNI have worked hard to engage with communities across the political divide over the last decade. Dissidents will not be allowed to undermine this good work through acts of violence.

“The PSNI and An Garda Síochána have built up a strong working relationship in recent years and I have no doubt that co-operation will be ongoing to bring these attackers to justice.”

Police representative body the Police Federation also condemned the shooting. Its chairman Mark Lindsay said the attack “on the life of an officer is a stark reminder of the determination on the part of terrorists to murder and maim police officers”.

“They believe that by causing great grief to a family they are somehow advancing their warped and outdated plan. The wider community will be outraged by this attack on one of their police officers,” he said.

“The police serve the entire community, and wounding one individual is an attack on the entire community.

“This attempted murder underlines the fragility of our peace. It’s one reason why the threat level here remains classed ‘severe’, which means a terrorist attack is highly likely,” he added.

‘Great vigilance’

“Officers already exercise great vigilance and I would appeal to them to remain at high alert. Our thoughts are with the officer and his family,” said Mr Lindsay.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned the shooting. “This is a deeply disturbing incident which echoes back to the kind of terrorism we used to face on a daily basis,” he said.

“My thoughts are with the officer who has been injured and I pray that the injuries sustained are not life-threatening and they can make a full recovery,” he added.

“These are scenes that we should all want to move away from in Northern Ireland. We must be mindful how a threat to the future of the political institutions can create a vacuum, which terrorists such as these will seek to fill,” said Mr Dodds.

“We must all stand against those who wish to use threats, intimidation and violence to further their political ends. It is vital we all stand against such activity and work to move Northern Ireland forward,” he added.

‘Calculating criminals’

SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon said those responsible were “calculating criminals intent on destabilising a community which continues to make strides toward reconciliation. They would be rejected by local people,” she added.

“My thoughts this evening are with the police officer who was shot as he performed his duty, keeping our community safe, near the Crumlin Road. I have spoken with his senior colleagues to pass on my concern,” she said.

“Those responsible for this attack, not only on the individual involved, but on the progress that north Belfast has made, must be brought to justice.

“This community has rejected the men of violence before and it will do so again.

“There will be no cover given to those who seek to destabilise our progress and bring mayhem back to our streets,” said Ms Mallon.

She encouraged anyone with “any information whatsoever to bring it forward to the police”.

Independent unionist Minister for Justice Claire Sugden said the attack was “sickening”.