13 September 2001 Edition
Loyalist threats forces bus company to close
A South Derry coach hire company has been forced to close due to continuous threats from loyalist paramilitaries.
The coach hire firm, which provided services for GAA clubs, decided to shut following a threat issued last weekend that it would receive ``no more warnings''.
The owner of the Bellaghy based firm, Damien Convery, said he took the decision after one of his vehicles was tampered with earlier this month. The Bellaghy firm, which has been attacked on numerous occasions, received a warning that there was a bomb left on one of the coaches while at Drumsurn.
Witnesses revealed that two strangers got out of a silver car at Drumsurn GAA ground and entered the bus. They then jumped out and drove off at high speed. Nothing was found and afterwards Damien Convery said he was not prepared to put children's lives at risk by continuing the operation.
Convery has four buses which were used on school runs, but these have also had to be discontinued.
A group calling itself the South Londonderry Protestant Volunteers (SLPV) issued the general warning to local businesses that sponsor GAA clubs. The same group has been held responsible for recent pipe bomb attacks at numerous GAA grounds throughout County Derry.
Meanwhile, it has been disclosed that a further four companies with business links with the GAA have been threatened by the SLPV. Three of the firms are based in County Derry while the fourth is in North Antrim.
Belfast republican's home attacked
Leading West Belfast republican Liam Shannon has criticised the RUC and NIO over their refusal to place him on the Key Persons Protection Scheme (KPPS) after his home was attacked by loyalist bombers at midnight on Wednesday 5 September.
The house suffered blast and fire damage after a blast incendiary bomb was lobbed onto a flat roof at the rear of his La Salle home and exploded.
The bomb went off and the impact of the blast smashed the back windows and set fire to the roof causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. Neighbours who heard the explosion ran out to discover the fire which they extinguished with garden hoses. Thanking his neighbours, Shannon said, ``it was only through the quick actions of our neighbours that the entire house wasn't burnt to the ground''.
Although no one was in the house at the time of the bombing, Shannon described the attack as attempted mass murder. Shannon said the bomb went off at a wall beside a bedroom where his grandchildren slept when they stayed overnight.
This latest attack on the Shannon home was claimed by the so-called Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA.
Two years ago, loyalists tried to kill the Shannon family using a bomb that exploded at the front of the house.
After that incident, Shannon applied for protection under the KPPS but to date the RUC and NIO have refused to admit him to the scheme. As well as the attacks, Shannon has been told on numerous occasions that his details are in the hands of loyalists.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has accused the RUC of failing to investigate the attack properly. He said the RUC were only at the scene for several minutes and could not have carried out a proper investigation of the incident in that time. ``When the RUC arrived, they stayed a couple of minutes and left, declaring it a petrol bomb attack,'' said Maskey.
North Belfast threats
Two Catholic families living near one of North Belfast's most volatile interfaces, Duncairn Gardens, have received threats warning them to leave their homes within 48 hours.
The handwritten letters said, ``Out Out Out. We have your details. We know your whereabouts. You have 48 hours to get out.''
One resident said: ``We have all received threats and have compiled a dossier on them. We have had houses paint bombed ,cars have been smashed, firecrackers are being thrown nightly and we have had rioting at the security gate, but this is vile and sinister development.''
Sinn Féin councillor Gerard Brophy condemned the threats and called on the Red Hand Defenders to publicly withdraw them. ``These threats come in the wake of two substantial seizures of acid bombs and petrol bomb in Tigers Bay and, in that context, it is a cause for concern,'' said Brophy.
Lisburn Catholics targeted
Catholics working in loyalist areas of Lisburn have been told they are being targeted by loyalist hit squads.
According to Sinn Féin councillor Michael Ferguson, the workers were told by a reliable source close to the loyalist groups that they intended to launch a killing campaign within the next couple of weeks.
Ferguson, who was contacted by the workers, added: ``I have advised these people to seek legal advice and request their superiors move them immediately to a safer working environment. After making my own enquiries, I am confident that this threat is very real. Loyalists are at present involved in targeting Catholics in the Lisburn area, presumably carrying out trial runs.''
Whitewell homes under fire
A series of attacks on nationalist homes in the Whitewell area of North Belfast are being blamed on a UDA gang based in the White City area.
The attacks are also believed to have been carried out in response to the death of Protestant teenager Thomas McDonald, who was killed in a road traffic incident last Tuesday, 4 September.
A Catholic woman, Alice McKeown, has been charged with murdering the dead youth. A man and juvenile were also charged with giving false information to the RUC in relation to the incident. A judge ruled that the addresses of the three not be made public.
After the incident, neighbours and friends of McDonald warned of retaliation saying there would be ``an eye for an eye''.
According to reports, at the time McDonald had been involved stone throwing against cars coming out of the small nationalist Longlands area prior to the accident.
In the latest weekend attacks, a retired couple and their next door neighbours were petrol bombed, the third attack on the couple's home in as many months.
The couple say the attack was a deliberate attempt to kill them.
Before carrying out their attack, the assailants attempted to disconnect street lamps in an attempt to cover their attacks with darkness. A number of cars were also damaged by the loyalists.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Sinn Féin's Danny Lavery described the ongoing attacks on the small nationalist enclave as, ``a pogrom designed to drive nationalists from their homes''.
Loyalist bomb in pub
A bomb defused by the British Army in a pub in Portstewart in County Derry was left there by loyalists. The bomb was found in the women's toilet of the Anchor Bar in the town on Monday night, 10 Sepember.
It is thought that the no warning device was left over the weekend, but luckily, it failed to explode.
The attack comes just weeks after loyalists, believed to have connections with the UVF, left a car bomb in Ballycastle during the Auld Lammas Fair, when thousands of people were in the town.