Republican groups suspected in gun battle with, failed bombing of, Northern Irish police

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The official badge of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

In two separate incidents police in Northern Ireland have come under attack. Both are believed by authorities to stem from organisations linked to the Irish Republican Army. The two incidents, one an attempted car bombing in Belfast, and the other a shooting in Garrison, County Fermanagh, led to four arrests by Northern Irish Police.

A police convoy in the village of Garrison came under ambush overnight. Three gunmen began shooting in the first time officers have been in a firefight in Northern Ireland since a July riot in Belfast. Police returned fire and four people were arrested.

A separate incident saw a car bomb set off outside the Northern Ireland Policing Board's headquarters. The car was driven through the Belfast building's security barriers and its 180 kilogram bomb was set off, but failed to detonate properly. Instead it partially exploded and the vehicle caught fire. Neither attack injured anyone.

The Republican dissidents seek a united Ireland and have battled to convince Britain to relinquish the Northern territory. After thirty years of warfare and attacks from both sides a 1998 peace deal largely ended the bloodshed. This year, however, violence has been on the increase again starting with the murder of a police officer and two soldiers in two separate March attacks. Since then attacks have been on the rise.

Three days ago the military was called in to defuse another bomb targeting police. "It appears that the dissidents are broadening the scale of their attacks," said a statement by the Police Board's Alex Attwood. The board is an independent civilian watchdog charged with overseeing the police.