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15 April 1999 Edition

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Lurgan attack linked to death threat

A 26-year-old Lurgan man had a lucky escape when he inadvertently walked into what may have been a loyalist ambush as he returned home from a night out at the weekend.

The incident happened as the young man, who wishes to remain anonymous, left the Silverwood Hotel on the outskirts of Lurgan on Saturday night, April 10.

He approached two men sitting in a Ford Transit van to ask for a lift when one punched him in the face. The pair then sped off, but as the man made his way up the Lough Road, which runs from the Craigavon turn off into Lurgan itself, the van returned to follow him.

The loyalists, according to the nationalist man, were now wearing balaclavas and he could see them brandishing guns. The man jumped into a garden and hid but the gunmen left the van to search for him. After ten minutes the loyalists gave up their search.

Sinn Féin Councillor John O'Dowd is adamant that the incident was connected to a loyalist attempt to kill a well known republican from the area who had attended dances in the Silverwood. He told An Phoblacht that in an incident earlier in the week, a young man was stopped by the Royal Irish Regiment on the Kilwilkee estate, days before the incident, while being held an RIR soldier said he would ``see him in the Silverwood on Saturday night''.

O'Dowd, accusing the RIR of collusion, believes the RIR man frequents the Silverwood and may have spotted the Lurgan republican there and passed the information on to the loyalists who set up their ambush based on this knowledge.

This incident happened within 48 hours of the RUC telling Breandán MacCionnaith of the Garvaghy Residents' Coalition and Lurgan republican Collie Duffy that their lives were in imminent danger from loyalists.

Both incidents come against the background of Rosemary Nelson's killing by loyalists and an escalation of crown-forces activity and harassment in the area.

During Easter week, a Lurgan republican activist told An Phoblacht that during an incident while he was stopped by the RIR outside Mahon Road British army barracks in Portadown, he was subjected to abuse about Rosemary Nelson and threatened that ``within 15 minutes of us letting you go we'll have somebody waiting for you''. While he was being held, he said, a well-known Portadown loyalist drove past the scene three times.

``Following the murder of Rosemary Nelson and the death threats to local people the nationalist community is living in fear,'' said O'Dowd.
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