The PSNI have withdrawn from an area in republican north Belfast following a grenade attack by the ‘new IRA’.
On Monday, a man walked out of the Brompton Park area of Ardoyne and fired a grenade at the PSNI from a ‘drop and go’ shoulder-held launcher. The PSNI said the device exploded on impact and pierced the outer skin of the armoured vehicle, but did not completely detonate. Reports suggest the attack was launched from a range of more than 60 feet.
In a statement claiming responsibility, the IRA group said: “Volunteers from our Belfast brigade fired a homemade rocket launcher striking an armoured PSNI military vehicle.
“Despite being heavily armed the PSNI fled the scene. Our capacity to target state forces is increasing and developing. As a result we will continue to target them at a time of our choosing.”
It follows a series of incidents in Derry earlier this month, including the firing of a mortar rocket by the same organisation which struck a PSNI patrol in the city last week. The ‘IRA’ is reported to have set up separate engineering operations across Ireland.
Although no injuries have yet been sustained by the British Crown police in recent months, the PSNI moved on Friday to withdraw an armoured Land Rover normally deployed on the republican side of the Ardoyne interface with loyalist Twaddell. PSNI members were reported as complaining they felt like ‘sitting ducks’, and that their every move was being watched.
As IRA activity increased this month, so did PSNI raids. Sweeping arrest operations in Belfast and Newry have again raised fears of internment.
Twelve men were arrested on November 11 in just one raid in Newry, including well-known republicans Patrick ‘Mooch’ Blair from Dundalk, Joe ‘Tiny’ Lynch from Limerick and Kerry republican John Sheehy. Four were held in Belfast in a separate raid on Thursday.
Mr Lynch and Mr Sheehy are former members of Republican Sinn Fein and are among a faction who reorganised themselves earlier this month under the name of Continuity Sinn Fein. The group, sometimes referred to as RSF-Limerick, have issued a statement to say that the arrested men were members of its Ard Chomhairle, or ruling council.
However, seven of those arrested were charged with membership of the (breakaway) Continuity IRA, and five with ‘directing terrorism’. Masked members of the same CIRA faction were recently photographed firing weapons over the coffin of member Liam Mulhern, who died in controversial circumstances in Maghaberry jail earlier this month.
At a bail hearing of one of those arrested, the judge claimed it was clear that the group had been “infiltrated to a very great degree” by MI5 through the use of “line taps or bugs”.
All of the armed groups were again condemned by (Provisional) Sinn Fein.
“Armed actions will not in any way bring a united Ireland any closer,” said Sinn Fein Councillor Jim McVeigh. “These are yesterday’s people who need to realise that there is a democratic way to achieve these goals.”
“If they are so confident that their actions are justified, which they are clearly not, they need to come forward and put themselves up for scrutiny in the media and to the public.”