EXCLUSIVE: DISSIDENT republican gunmen tried to kill police officers with new high velocity assault rifles.
Belfast Daily understands a four man terror gang armed with the new rifles opened fire on the separate police mobile patrol vehicles on Thursday night in the Ardoyne district.
The attacks, say police, were an attempt to murder PSNI officers while travelling through the area in armoured 4 X 4 vehicles.
A dissident republican source said: “They have recently acquired a number of new high velocity rifles.
“This was the first time the rifles have been used.”
A Volkswagen Passat car used in the attack was later found partially burned out near Herbert Street in the Ardoyne district.
The gun attacks started around 7.10 pm on Thursday evening as the PSNI vehicles travelled along Crumlin Road, near Brompton Park.
Holy Cross Boys Primary School has been shut to pupils and staff as detectives and forensic teams carry out a follow-up operation.
As a result of the ongoing operation, homes have been evacuated in Herbert Street, Butler Walk, Butler Place and Elmfield Street.
A community centre has been opened for residents to shelter in while the investigation continues.
The attack has been condemned by the local police commander for north Belfast.
Chief Supt George Clarke said: “Police are treating this attack as the attempted murder of officers as they were providing a service to the community of north Belfast.
“It is to be utterly condemned by all right-minded members of society and I urge anyone with any information to contact police immediately.”
DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said dissident republicans were behind the murder bid.
“Thankfully no-one was injured in this attack but it is vital that those responsible are identified and brought to justice,” said the DUP deputy leader.
“This would obviously appear to be the work of dissident republicans and I would hope that the community in Ardoyne will stand against those responsible and with the police as they carry out their investigations,” he added
SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon said: “Those behind this attack were intent on the murder of police officers and had no regard whatsoever for anyone who could have been caught in crossfire simply walking past.”
Following the gun attacks, police launched its ‘India 49’ helicopter into the skies above north Belfast in a bid to trace the gunmen.
Officers with torch lights scanned the area looking for strike marks from the high velocity rifles.
A major investigation has been launched by the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch in the murder bid on police officers.
The inquiry team has appealed for anyone with information about the murder bids to contact them on 0845 600 8000.