Grenade attack in Belfast was an 'attempt to kill' police officers

4 December 2019, 19:19

A grenade was thrown at a police land rover in Milltown Row
A grenade was thrown at a police land rover in Milltown Row. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A police vehicle has been targeted in a suspected grenade attack which was described as a "callous" attempt to "kill officers."

The suspected explosive device was thrown at a police land rover at around 2am Wednesday morning in Milltown Row just off the Falls Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts said the vehicle was struck by an object during a routine patrol, before a loud bang was heard by the officers inside.

"A loud bang was then heard and the police land rover made its way to a place of safety," he said.

"Thankfully, none of the officers inside the vehicle were injured and no damage was noted to the land rover.

"A police operation was immediately implemented to ensure the safety of everyone in the area and that operation is ongoing at present."

Mr Roberts explained that "remnants of a suspected grenade" were found at the sight and they were taken away by a forensic team for investigation.

"Further searches are being conducted this morning to ensure there are no other devices present which could endanger members of the public," he added.

The police chief described the attack as "undoubtedly an attempt to kill or injure police officers".

"This despicable act must be condemned by all," he said.

"A full and thorough investigation is under way and I would appeal to anyone who noticed any recent suspicious activity in the area or who has any information which could assist us with our inquiries to contact detectives at Musgrave on 101 quoting reference number 79 04/12/19."

The Falls Road was at the centre of the Troubles in Northern Ireland
The Falls Road was at the centre of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Picture: PA

Paul Maskey, the Sinn Fein West Belfast election candidate, condemned the attack, calling it "reckless and futile."

"Thankfully no-one has been injured in this reckless attack," he said.

"The vast majority of people in West Belfast and beyond want these futile attacks to end immediately. Those responsible have nothing to offer but hurt and injury."

Officers inside the police land rover were lucky to escape without any injuries, according to the chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland Mark Lindsay.

"Instead of reporting a failed terrorist attack this morning, we could easily have been commenting on fatalities or serious injuries. I am relieved that our officers weren't hurt in this cowardly and callous attempt to kill them," he said.

"As a community, we have to rid ourselves of this terrorist menace. It is holding back all of us who want to build a better future for our children.

"These dissident republicans are heartless and ruthless. We have a threat level that is officially rated 'severe' and there's little prospect of that changing in the foreseeable future."