Gun attack on PSNI ‘could have blown up petrol station’

A car identical to a dark red Audi A4 estate, with the registration number KNZ 2862, was parked in Flax Street during an hour-long revisit yesterday
A car identical to a dark red Audi A4 estate, with the registration number KNZ 2862, was parked in Flax Street during an hour-long revisit yesterday

Ten shots fired from an AK-type assault rifle during last week’s attempted murder of a policeman hit a number cars at a busy filling station during the attack.

Forensic tests have also shown bullets hit several spots on the forecourt in Crumlin Road, Belfast, which police say could have blown up if one of the fuel pumps was struck.

Children were among a number of people at the station at the time.

A group calling itself the new IRA has claimed responsibility for the gun attack on a community officer, aged in his 20s, who was hit three times in the arm on Sunday, January 22.

Commanders believe his body armour may have saved him from further harm. He has undergone surgery and is recovering.

Exactly a week on from the shooting, police revisited the scene in an attempt to jog the memories of residents and passers-by who may have vital clues about the would-be killers.

A car identical to the dark red Audi A4 estate, with the registration number KNZ 2862 and which detectives believe was used by the attackers to flee the scene, was parked in Flax Street during the hour-long revisit.

Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes, who is leading the investigation, said he was hoping it would prompt recollections of its movements.

“We know it was parked in Flax Street at 7.02 pm last Sunday night and it left the street just after 7.30pm and was driven through the Oldpark area before being burnt out around 8pm in Culmore Gardens in west Belfast,” he said.

“I am particularly interested in its movements during January in west and north Belfast.”

Large posters of the car were also displayed at the scene on a police trailer and on the side of a police Land Rover.

“It is my belief that that the weapon used to fire indiscriminately at the filling station has been used before to attack police in Belfast,” said Mr Geddes.

“I believe it is an AK-type assault rifle. We recovered 10 spent cases from the firing point. The gunman fired these from across the road. It is a busy thoroughfare for motorists at that time of night and anyone could have been hit.

“There are a number of strike marks on the forecourt and on cars belonging to members of the public which could quite easily have killed or seriously injured local people, including the children who were at the station.

“Had any of the bullets hit the fuel pumps we may have also been facing casualties from an explosion.”

Mr Geddes described the attackers as cowardly and completely reckless. “They had absolutely no regard for the people in this community who were going about their lives last Sunday night,” he said.

“This is a small, misguided group of people who are intent on causing murder and mayhem.”

Three men – aged 30, 36,and 39 – who were arrested in connection with the incident were all released unconditionally.

Using a recognised codeword to the Irish News newspaper, the so-called new IRA claimed the attack.

The faction has claimed responsibility for the murder of a prison officer last year. It is an amalgamation of the Real IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs and a loose collection of dissident republicans.