Australian policeman attacked using own patrol car

Wed Jan 7, 2009 2:14am EST
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CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian outback policeman was pelted with rocks and beer bottles and his stolen patrol car was used to try and run him down, police said Wednesday.

The officer was attacked by five people Tuesday night at an Aboriginal camp near the desert town of Alice Springs.

The attackers tried to run him down several times with the stolen car before they fled, dumping the vehicle 190 km (120 miles) away. Police condemned the assault as "drunken, cowardly and brutal."

"This incident is an outrage," Northern Territory Police Commander Bert Hofer said in a statement, adding the officer had shown remarkable restraint not to use his gun in response.

"Every day police officers do their best to protect the community and often it's a difficult and dangerous job. But to have this sort of cowardly assault on a lone police officer by a group of people is completely intolerable," Hofer said.

Alice Springs, a base for tourists visiting Australia's outback, has seen a surge in violence in recent months, much of it blamed on local indigenous youths.

The town's mayor last month demanded the riot squad be brought from Darwin, 1,500 km (930 miles) away, in a bid to end lawlessness blamed on chronic joblessness, boredom and easy access to alcohol.

Police said one of the attackers, a woman, was arrested after she was found in the police vehicle. Two men and two other women were arrested Wednesday and were to be charged with assault.

(Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Paul Tait)