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5 March 1998 Edition

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Fear of more attacks

THE death of two people in a loyalist gun attack has led to fears of a renewed sectarian murder campaign by loyalists against the nationalist community.

The killers randomly opened fire on patrons in a Catholic-owned bar in Poyntzpass near Newry in County Armagh on Tuesday night.

The attack came within hours of an attempted sectarian shooting near the County Antrim village of Toomebridge. Two masked gunmen entered the Railway Bar in the predominately nationalist village of Poyntzpass at around 9.00pm on Tuesday.

They opened fire after ordering customers to lie on the ground. One of the gunmen shouted ``get down you bastards.'' Damien Trainor (26) and Philip Allen (34) sustained multiple gunshot wounds. They were rushed to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry but medical teams were unable to resuscitate either man. The two other customers sustained gunshot wounds which were later described as ``not life threatening'' by staff at Craigavon Area Hospital.

The gunmen also fired at Bernadette Canavan, wife of the owner, as she ran for cover. The getaway car used by the killers was a white Ford Escort, registration MIB 2980, stolen in the loyalist village of Dromore, County Down. After the shooting the vehicle was found abandoned on the Loughbrickland to Scarva Road.

The Railway Bar is owned by a brother of the local SDLP Councillor Tom Canavan. The Canavan's are one of the best known GAA families in County Armagh.

Those associated with the GAA have been targets for numerous loyalist murders in recent months.

Both victims who died in the attack, Damien Trainor, a Catholic and Philip Allen, a Protestant, have been described as ``neighbours and good friends.'' They were drinking together on the night of the fatal shooting.

 

Loyalists attack Carnlough



by Catherine O'Hagan

The Loyalist death squads campaign against Catholics on the North Antrim Coast peaked last week when on Friday 27 March, they left a bomb on the White Hill Road in Carnlough.

The RUC only blocked the road at lunchtime despite making calls to local shopkeepers before 9.30am warning them of the suspect device. It then took 11 hours for the crown forces to move in to examine the device.

It has since emerged that a commercial explosive, possibly powergel, was used in the bomb. Local people say this latest attack could be linked to an explosion in the nearby village of Glenarm when in December a man lost an arm. While attempting to bomb the house of a woman whose brother was acquitted of killing a Protestant man, leading loyalist Richard Hastings lost his arm.

Before the Glenarm explosion the local quarry held supplies of explosives on site and the RUC ferried in detonators when required. Since the December attack the explosives are not kept on site but are again brought in by the RUC when needed.

Sinn Fein Six County Chairperson Gerry O hEara said, ``It has transpired that the device contained commercial explosives and a commercial detonator of a type previously used by `mainstream' loyalist groups.'' He asked if Ronnie Flanagan would identify the culprits and said Flanagan's response to the recent killing of a drug dealing top UDA man that led to the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the talks was, ``a knee-jerk assessment reserved for use against republicans.''

Meanwhile Loyalist death threats in North Antrim are escalating. In the last month, five Catholics from the coastal area have received threats.

 

Toome gun attack



Just hours before the Loyalist murders in Poyntzpass on Tuesday, a Catholic man in Toome narrowly survived an assassination bid on him at his mobile chip shop.

Dominic Laverty said that a man approached the van and tried to fire indiscriminately on the staff, but the gun jammed after one round was fired. The man then ran to a red car, which sped off towards Castledawson.

Sinn Fein's MP for Mid-Ulster, Martin McGuinness, demanded that RUC Chief Ronnie Flanagan release any available ballistic evidence, and provide his analysis of which Loyalist group was behind the attack. He also urged all nationalists to remain vigilant.


Loyalist parcel bomb



The bomb that exploded in Belfast's Tomb Street Royal Mail sorting office on Wednesday 25 February has been linked with two Loyalist parcel bomb attacks on Catholics the previous week.

Two people were injured when a package left in the returned letters centre exploded. It was addressed to a non-existent address.

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