Source AP ©

Car thief shot police officer in Ireland

A motorcycle police officer was shot in the stomach at close range but survived after he stopped a stolen car Tuesday, police and witnesses said.

It was the first shooting of a police officer in Ireland in nearly six years, even though the country's criminal underworld regularly uses guns when committing crimes. The rarity of the event was underscored by swift political reaction.

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan vowed that authorities would "spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators of this outrage to justice."

And President Mary McAleese, Ireland's symbolic head of state, said she telephoned the police commander, Commissioner Noel Conroy, to express her relief that the officer had not died and to praise his courage.

The unarmed officer had spotted a stolen car in inner north Dublin and pulled it over when a passenger in the car stepped out onto the sidewalk and shot him with what appeared to be a sawn-off shotgun, police said.

The 27-year-old officer, who was not identified by name, was reported in stable condition in Dublin's Mater Hospital.

The attackers abandoned the stolen car and escaped in a white van. The shooting happened near a post office, which the gang was suspected of planning to rob. Post offices distribute welfare payments in cash and are among the most commonly robbed businesses.

Only about a fifth of the 13,000-strong Garda Siochana, Ireland's police force, regularly carry firearms, and the force must train at Irish army firing ranges because it does not have its own facilities. Police are increasingly being supplied with non-lethal weapons, such as pepper sprays and Tasers, in addition to their traditional reliance on batons.

The last officer to be shot, Sgt. John Eiffe, was accidentally killed by one of his own colleagues on Dec. 7, 2001, as they were stopping a bank robbery.

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