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21 September 2000 Edition

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Loyalist bomb attack in Bangor

BY LAURA FRIEL

A bomb attack in Bangor in which a man was seriously injured and was initially blamed on the LVF may have been carried out by the UDA as part of their ongoing feud with the UVF, it has emerged. In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, PUP spokesperson David Ervine, who described victim Sandy Rice as a close friend, said that the attack was not part of the feud between the UVF and UDA but was drug related. Ervine claimed the victim had been targeted because of his efforts to prevent drug dealers using a club in which he worked. ``The drug dealers he did expel are linked absolutely directly to the LVF,'' said Ervine.

But significantly, NIO Security minister Adam Ingram did not rule out a possible link between the booby trap bombing and loyalist feuding. This news came amidst rumours that the UDA was forging closer operational links with the LVF and that their aim was to extend the current feud beyond the Shankill.

During the sectarian killing spree which followed the killing of LVF founder and leader Billy Wright in 1997, it was widely believed that many of the attacks claimed by the LVF were either carried out by the UDA or with the UDA's sanction and help. Before Wright's death, UDA leader Johnny Adair courted the LVF leader while both were jailed in Long Kesh. Earlier this year, at the height of the Drumcree protest, Adair was present during an LVF show of strength in Portadown.

The victim of the bomb attack, Sandy Rice, is a former loyalist internee who runs a boxing club in Bangor, as well as being head of security at a local nightclub. Rice was driving a Ford Transit van in Bangor town centre at around 10am on Monday morning when a bomb exploded beneath the vehicle. The critically injured man was taken to a hospital in Dundonald, where he underwent surgery for severe leg injuries. Two men travelling in the vehicle with Rice escaped with only minor injuries.

The attack came in a week which saw no let up in the ongoing loyalist feud. An explosion blasted through the offices of a UDA prisoners' centre on the Shankill Road in the early hours of Monday morning. The building suffered severe damage but the premises were empty at the time of the attack and no one was injured.

The attack unwittingly exposed a UDA arms cache hidden in the centre. The tail fin for a mortar, component parts for pipe bombs, balaclavas and combat clothing were later discovered in the bombed out building. Another pipe bomb thrown at a house in the upper Shankill failed to explode and was later defused. A petrol bomb thrown through the window into the downstairs living room ignited and caused some damage but the house on Ballygomartin Road was unoccupied at the time.

Shots were fired and a device thrown in Malvern Way on the Lower Shankill. PUP member Billy Hutchinson blamed the attack on the UDA and LVF and accused the two rival paramilitary groupings of ``upping the ante''. Shots were also fired on Monday night at a house in Joanmount Gardens in the Oldpark area of North Belfast. A couple in the house at the time escaped injury.
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