The breakaway republican group known as the ‘Real IRA’ has said it shot two members of the PSNI in Derry and Dungannon, County Tyrone last week, and also detonated a coffee-jar bomb in Newry, County Armagh.
The series of attacks heralded an escalation in the campaign of the republican militants. The shooting in Derry marked the first such attack on a member of the British Crown forces in the city in over nine years.
In the two gun attacks, both men were targeted while caught in traffic and off-duty and both survived without life-threatening injuries.
On Thursday last week, a Catholic PSNI men originally from the Bogside area of Derry was wounded by shotgun pellets on his face and arms in the Bishop Street area.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, the ‘Real IRA’ said the PSNI man only survived because a handgun failed to fire.
In the statement to a Derry newsroom, the organisation said: “As the Crown forces member travelled along Bishop Street towards the city centre, two IRA volunteers stepped out and the first volunteer opened fire with a shotgun, seriously wounding the target.
“The second volunteer then approached his vehicle with a handgun. Only through the malfunction of his weapon was the RUC/PSNI man saved from certain death. He might not be so lucky the next time.”
The group also threatened that anyone giving information to the PSNI would be treated as informers.
A second PSNI member was shot a number of times in the arm as he sat in his car at traffic lights in Dungannon, County Tyrone on Monday.
He drove back to a police station where he crashed into the front gates. His injuries were not thought to have been life-threatening.
Although the ‘Real IRA’ also claimed responsibility for the Dungannon attack, a second claim was made in the name of a group calling itself the ‘Irish Republican Liberation Army’.
That statement said: “There is now a central command within our organisation. More shootings will follow. We again reiterate our threat to Sinn Feiners in north Belfast. We again demand they resign from local DPPs (district policing partnership) boards.”
Republican militants have strongly opposed Sinn Fein’s involvement in the DPPs -- the local policing boards which look at PSNI activity at a community level -- and Sinn Fein members of the DPPs have received threats from militant republican.
The Dungannon attack appeared linked directly to the formation of the local DPP, taking place as its first meeting was due to take place. As a result of the attack, the meeting was cancelled.
The PSNI launched a series of raids in the locality after the shooting. Damage was caused when the PSNI gained entry to a former republican prisoner’s home with a chainsaw, and later kicked in the door of his sister. Both were subsequently arrested and are currently being interrogated at Antrim Barracks.
Republican Sinn Fein said it “deplored” the raids and arrests. “Their father went downstairs to investigate, believing that there had been a break-in. He was instantly surrounded by RUC officers and an infra-red light - presumably the sight of a weapon - was trained on his body,” an RSF spokesman said.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has denounced the shootings and said those responsible had no mandate and demanded that all such actions should stop.
The West Belfast MP said his offer to hold talks with “dissident republicans”, aimed at ending such attacks, remained open.
“I am still prepared to meet them. They have so far declined that offer,” he said.
“What I want to do is persuade them that republican objectives are not served by these actions. There is a duty on anyone interesting in advancing genuine republicanism to do so in a peaceful way.”
He referred to his party’s ardfheis last January, which voted to recognise the police on both sides of the Border, and to his party’s duty to hold the PSNI to account.
“We have lots of difficulties with the PSNI in terms of their delivery of services whether it is on hate crime, whether it is on burglaries and so on,” he said. Republicans, he said, had “a duty to make it very clear [the PSNI] should not be under attack”.
Meanwhile, the ‘Real IRA’ also said it planted the small grenade-style device in a ceremonial cannon near the Cenotaph in Newry on Sunday. It exploded as a commemoratieve event was taking place nearby to honour members of the British Armed forces.
The group said the small explosive device “was positioned in such a way so as not to cause injury to civilians. This step was taken as we had observed the RUC/PSNI failing to evacuate those in the vicinity of bomb alerts in the past, so too with this incident.
“Some elements have attempted to play down this attack however this device was neither crude nor contained fireworks but detonated in the manner we intended.
“This operation was carried out in response to a campaign by the British colonial police to disrupt republican commemorations and harass those in attandance.
“Until the Crown forces cease preventing republicans from honouring Ireland’s dead and until our POWs are no longer placed in punishment blocks for wearing republican symbols at Easter, we reserve the right to carry out such attacks in the future”.