18 July 2002 Edition
Lucky to be alive
A loyalist gang attempted to abduct and murder a Catholic man in the early hours of last Friday morning, 12 July. Michael Rafferty, from the St James' area, was walking along Broadway, an interface area, at around 1am when a white Audi mounted the pavement and tried to run him over. Rafferty managed to jump out of the way as the car careered into railing behind him. A number of men then climbed out of the car and began assaulting him whilst trying to drag him into the car.
"I was hanging on to the railings while they were beating me and trying to drag me into the car," he said. "Then one of them said 'let's just shoot him here'. I thought I was going to be killed there and then."
Rafferty was saved by a group of nationalists who witnessed the attack and ran to help. The PSNI then appeared on the scene and the attackers made off on foot.
"I was going in and out of consciousness, but the residents told me that [my attackers] ran through the police towards the Village area," said Rafferty. He was taken to hospital and treated for injuries to his head and legs.
"I remember being brought to hospital and the doctors telling me that I was lucky to be alive. I have no doubt that I would not be alive today if they had managed to get me into that car or had enough time to shoot me at the scene."
Eleventh Night celebrations took their familiar form when two men were victims of loyalist knife attacks in separate incidents in Belfast. A 16-year-old youth was repeatedly stabbed by a loyalist who got out of a car as the boy made his way along Glentane Avenue in north Belfast last Thursday evening. In what was clearly a sectarian murder attempt, the victim was stabbed in the neck and back, the severity of the attack leaving him in a critical condition and on a ventilator in hospital.
The second incident occurred at York Street in Belfast city centre the same night when a man received serious but not life threatening slash wounds to the head.
The attacks came just as loyalist paramilitaries staged a show of strength on the Shankill Road and issued a message threatening nationalists with 'retaliation'.
Attacks on churches
Sectarian attacks on Catholic churches in the Six Counties continued last week. On Wednesday evening, 10 July, the Church of Our Lady in Harryville, Ballymena - the target of weekly, often violent, loyalist protests between September 1996 and May 1998 - was spattered with red, white and blue paint.
In County Antrim, the 18th century church at Aughnahoy near Portglenone was set alight early on Thursday morning after a security grille was removed and flammable liquid poured through a window at the rear of the building and set alight. The disused building was left with serious fire and smoke damage.
Sinn Féin Ballymoney councillor, Philip McGuigan, said: "These attacks are part of a wider loyalist campaign which has been ongoing throughout this area over the past year. This campaign has seen continuous loyalist attacks on churches, schools and homes."
Also on Thursday, a teenage boy was killed after being hit by a car during a pipe-bomb scare in nearby Ahoghill. Fifteen-year-old Jason Green of Carnmoyne, Ahoghill, died instantly in the collision which occurred as he cycled away from a Catholic-owned shop where the device had been left. The pipe bomb had failed to explode outside Dougan's furniture shop, which was recently rebuilt after having been burnt down in a previous attack.