Northern Ireland

PSNI officer shooting: Two released, one man still in custody

Forensic officer at the scene Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Police said the main line of inquiry was 'violent dissident republicans'

Two men arrested after the shooting of a police officer in north Belfast have been released, while another remains in custody.

Police arrested two more men, aged 30 and 39 on Monday.

A 36-year-old man arrested on Sunday and the 39-year-old man have now been released unconditionally.

The officer was shot at least twice in the right arm after automatic gunfire was sprayed across a garage forecourt on the Crumlin Road.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said a bullet-proof vest may have saved the officer's life.

Police say their main line of inquiry is "violent dissident republicans".

The PSNI is treating the attack as attempted murder and has released a photo of the suspected getaway car.

The red Audi was found burnt out in Culmore Gardens at about 20:00 GMT on Sunday.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption The PSNI distributed a photo of a car believed to have been used by the suspects to flee the scene of the attack

The injured officer, who is in his 20s, has undergone surgery and is said to be "recovering well in hospital" but faces further surgery.

Image copyright Justin Kernoghan
Image caption The aftermath of the shooting - an armed police officer is distinguishable in the lower right-hand corner of this picture
Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The shooting happened near a petrol station on the Crumlin Road
Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Bullet holes in the windows of the filling station

The chief constable said people were filling their cars with fuel at the garage when the shots were fired and there were "multiple strike marks on the forecourt".

He added that police now believe the attack was not a drive-by shooting but that a gunman fired shots from behind a fence, across the road from the petrol station.

"This is an attack on the entire community, people walking from the forecourt to their cars with bullets whizzing round them and striking the garage forecourt - completely reckless," he said.

"Whatever people's motivation for doing this, it is just crazy."

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Media captionAn eyewitness spoke to BBC News NI's Sara Neill

Mr Hamilton said such incidents "don't happen on ad hoc or opportunistic way. So we'd be pretty convinced that this is a planned operation".

"The use of violence for any sort of political objective hasn't worked in the past and it's certainly not going to work in the future," he added.

Image copyright Justin Kernoghan
Image caption Police said people were filling their cars with petrol to find "bullets whizzing around them"
Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Forensic officers were at the scene on Monday

The PSNI detective leading the investigation, Det Supt Kevin Geddes, said: "We have recovered bullets from a number of locations on the forecourt and in several cars."

He appealed for sightings of the getaway car on Flax Street and Crumlin Road at about 19:30 GMT on Sunday.

"I'd also like to hear from anyone who noticed this car and its movements during December 2016 up to last night's shooting," Mr Geddes added.

Image caption The scene remained closed on Monday morning

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire and the NI Justice Minister Claire Sugden have described the attack as "sickening".

All the main political parties in Northern Ireland have condemned the attack.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said it was "an appalling act" and underlined the "fragility of our peace".

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