THE ‘AK-type’ assault rife used in a ‘New IRA’ gun attack on the PSNI on the Crumlin Road had been used in other dissident operations, the detective leading the investigation has said.

Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes returned to the scene of the attack last night to appeal for information.

He revealed that ten shots were fired and the lives of passers-by were put in danger during the attack.

“It is my belief that that the weapon used to fire indiscriminately at the filling station has been used before to attack police in Belfast. I believe it is an AK type assault rifle,” he said.

“We recovered 10 spent cases from the firing point. The gunman fired these from across the road. It is a busy thoroughfare for motorists at that time of night and any one could have been hit.

“There are a number of strike marks on the forecourt and on cars belonging to members of the public which could quite easily have killed or seriously injured local people, including the children who were at the station. Had any of the bullets hit the fuel pumps we may have also been facing casualties from an explosion.”

The detective said their focus was now on tracing the movement of getaway car which was found burnt out on Culmore Gardens in West Belfast – just yards from where a previous attack on the PSNI was carried out in November 2015.

On that occasion an unmarked police car was struck in Rossnareen Avenue up to eight times with bullets fired from a high velocity rifle. Two officers escaped injury because of the car’s armoured plating.

Speaking last night, Detective Superintendent Geddes said that he wants to hear from anyone who saw the car – a red Audi A4 Estate registration number KNZ 2862 – used by the gunmen.

“The investigation into the shooting of a community police officer in North Belfast last week is progressing, however I’m still keen to trace the movements of this dark red Audi.

“We know it was parked in Flax Street at 7.02pm last Sunday night and it left the street just after 7.30pm and was driven through the Oldpark area before being burnt out around 8pm in Culmore Gardens in West Belfast.

“I would ask anyone with information to phone 101 or if you would prefer to remain anonymous contact independent charity Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Three men, aged 30, 36 and 39, who were arrested in connection with the incident last week, have all been released unconditionally.