Police escape murder bid as grenades are thrown

Armed police seal off an area in north Belfast. Picture: PA
Armed police seal off an area in north Belfast. Picture: PA
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Two police officers had to dive for cover after two improvised grenades exploded yesterday only yards from where they were standing.

They came under attack while responding to an emergency call in a loyalist area of north Belfast around 2am yesterday.

Dissident republicans, who were behind a gun and pipe bomb attack on a police patrol in west Belfast less than a fortnight ago, have been blamed for the murder bid.

PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) Chief Inspector Andy Freeburn said it was a blatant attempt to kill police.

He said: “We are extremely shocked that we nearly lost the lives of two of our officers. We are just so fortunate that we are not dealing with the loss of life of our officers or indeed anybody else that was residing in this residential area.”

The grenades exploded as the officers got out of their armoured patrol vehicle.

Ch Insp Freeburn said: “The officers parked their vehicle, got out and within seconds of that happening two pipe bombs arrived very close to them. They had a very short space of time to take cover before these devices detonated.

“They were large pipe bomb type devices. When we say pipe bomb we are talking about an improvised grenade. This would have had the potential to if not kill, seriously injure officers if they had been any closer to them.”

The PSNI is still investigating whether the 999 call was an attempt to lure the police patrol to their death.

The two officers, who have not been named, were uninjured but have been left extremely shaken by their ordeal.

Twenty homes had to be evacuated because of concerns about secondary devices.

Sections of the Crumlin Road remained sealed off last night as army bomb experts carried out investigations.

The attack has been condemned across the political spectrum.

North Belfast’s Democratic Unionist Party MP Nigel Dodds said: “There can be no doubt that those who planned and carried out this attack intended to cause serious injury or death to police officers.” The Social Democratic and Labour Party’s Conall McDevitt said those behind the attack were intent on murder.

Policing Board chairman Brian Rea said: “The officers were not injured and that is the most important thing.”