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18 November 1999 Edition

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Loyalist attack thwarted in West Belfast

By Laura Friel

Fears of loyalist attacks in the heart of West Belfast intensified last week following a sinister incident in the Andersonstown area. Shortly after 7pm on Thursday, 11 November, local people noticed an unfamiliar car parked in Commedagh Drive. Suspicions were further fuelled by the fact that while the vehicle appeared to be brand new, the number plates were old. ``It was obvious the vehicle had been fitted with false number plates,'' said a resident.

A man, dressed in a short sleeved shirt and carrying a large long box was spotted by a number of local people. ``He was bending down, holding the box, by a hedge,'' said an eyewitness. Some one asked him what he was doing to which he simply replied ``nothing''. After being challenged the man returned briefly to the vehicle where he appeared to take out a mobile phone before locking the vehicle. Then, still carrying the box, the stranger took to his heels and ran away.

A few minutes later another vehicle, this time carrying three men, appeared at the scene. One of the three men in the car got out to examine the locked vehicle. Approaching a local person, the man said he was ``looking for his mate.'' The three men then drove speedily away. A group of young children who had begun to gather around the abandoned car, spotted gloves and a hood within the vehicle.

The RUC arrived at the scene shortly after the three men left. After a brief examination of the abandoned vehicle, the RUC radioed for forensic back up and sealed the car off. Within 15 minutes, the vehicle had been removed from the area by the RUC. ``There was something sinister about that car,'' said a local resident. ``Last month, a vehicle abandoned in this street by joyriders and reported to the RUC was left for over five days before being removed.''
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