Police officers escape death after car hit by volley of gunfire
Two police officers were millimetres from death last night after their car was hit by a volley of a gunfire in west Belfast.
They were seated in an unmarked police car parked outside the Rossnareen Avenue home of Martin Gavin, a Traveller who was shot in the head there last week.
The PSNI car was riddled with up to eight bullets fired from what eyewitnesses described as a Kalashnikov rifle.
Only the car's armour plating saved the two officers from certain death.
An eyewitness told the Irish Independent that the gunman calmly picked up spent shell casings from the ground before making his escape in a BMW with a Cork registration number. The car was found burned out nearby shortly afterwards.
The PSNI are treating the attack as attempted murder, with dissident republicans the main suspects.
"The police car had been sitting there for days," said a local man. "It was an easy target."
The PSNI's Belfast Commander, Chief Superintendent Nigel Grimshaw, said: "This was a mindless and reckless attempt to kill police officers who were carrying out routine duties as part of investigations into recent serious crime in the area.
"Thankfully, it failed. The two officers were badly shaken but they were not physically injured."
Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said: "The officers were very lucky they weren't injured. This was absolute madness in a built-up area. These officers were there to serve their community. They were trying to help the people of the community and this is what happened. But the officers are determined to continue their duties.
Justice Minister David Ford condemned the attack unreservedly, saying: "This was clearly an attempt to kill police officers serving the community.
"Those responsible for this cowardly act have also shown absolutely no regard for local residents. I am very thankful that no one was injured."