25 September 2003 Edition

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SECTARIAN ATTACKS

More North Belfast UDA attacks

A ten-day-old baby escaped injury after loyalists petrol bombed four Catholic homes on the Bawnmore estate on the Northern outskirts of Belfast on Saturday night, 20 September.

Up to five devices where thrown in the sectarian attack, which happened when loyalists travelling in a red car stopped outside the nationalist homes. It is thought that three UDA men were involved.

The child's father, who wishes to remain anonymous, revealed that the family escaped serious injury although they had been unaware that the front of their home was on fire until they were alerted by a local girl.

"The baby was in the front room and we were at the back of the house when we heard banging at the front door. A girl had seen the petrol bomb attack and had run under the porch, even though it was on fire, to warn us. When I opened the door the flames just hit me."

He said the UDA have targeted houses on the estate on a number of occasions.

"The petrol bombs were filled with sugar as well as petrol," he said. "The people responsible for this were not trying to scare us, they were trying to kill us."

"I will be presenting a petition to be placed in the council offices for councillors to sign not only in regard to what went on in Carnmoney cemetery but also these latest sectarian attacks", said Sinn Féin Councillor Briege Meehan.

Father and son beaten

A 20-year-old man and his father were viciously attacked by loyalists after a night of greyhound racing at Ballyskeagh dog track near Lisburn on Saturday night 20 September.

Louise Conlon told how when she arrived by car to collect her husband and son after the race meeting, the pair were set upon by a number of men.

She said one of the attackers pulled out a metal bar and beat Kieran Conlon around the head, knocking him to the ground. Another member of the gang smashed a bottle on Kieran as he lay on the ground. Martin Conlon was attacked as he went to his son's aid.

Kieran suffered concussion and was taken to hospital, where he received stitches to his head before being released on Sunday.

Martin Conlon says there have been a number of sectarian incidents in recent months where Catholics have been singled out and attacked by youths from the nearby loyalist Seymour Hill estate and there has also been an increase in anti-Catholic graffiti in the area.

Children's lucky escape as car stoned

A Catholic family with two young children escaped serious injury after loyalists threw rocks through the back window of their car as they drove along Market Hill Road in Cookstown, County Tyrone shortly after 7pm on Sunday 21 September.

Terry Coyle, his partner Mary and their two children were treated inister development" and has accused unionist paramilitaries of upping the ante and escalating sectarian tensions in the city.

The Catholic taxi driver was attacked in Armagh last Saturday night at temporary traffic lights on the Newry Road. The driver, who had stopped at the light, was approached by a gang from behind. A number of masked men, one armed with a handgun, began attacking the vehicle. This driver managed to get out of his car and had to run for his life. The gang then wrecked his car before stealing his keys and other personal belongings.

"The use of a firearm is a very sinister development, particularly as it comes only a week after threats were made against Catholic workmen currently working on the site of a new car showroom not 100 yards from this latest attack," said Corrigan. "It seems clear that unionist paramilitaries are intent on escalating their attacks on the members of the nationalist community, not only in Armagh but in other areas across the north. If this trend continues, then it is only a matter of time before a taxi driver is very seriously injured or worse. The use of a firearm would suggest a willingness on the part of these attackers to carry out their threat to murder Catholics.

"Another alarming aspect of this increasing number of sectarian attacks is the lack of comment from unionist political representatives and a playing down of the sectarian motive. The PSNI may well hold an open mind on the motive for a number of these attacks, but for nationalists in Armagh the motive is crystal clear. My colleagues have in the past urged nationalists to be vigilant. In light of last weekend's attacks, I would repeat that warning."

UDA threaten schoolchildren

UDA bomb hoaxes in Larne and North and West Belfast closed five Catholic schools on Thursday 18 September.

At around 1.15pm, a caller claiming to represent the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the UDA, made a call to a Belfast newsroom to say bombs had been left at Catholic schools.

Pupils at St Comgall's High School in Larne missed out on a day's education after a controlled explosion was carried out by a British Army bomb disposal team on a package that had wires and a battery connected to it at the school gates.

Further chaos was caused by alerts in North Belfast at Holy Cross girls' primary school, St Gabriel's boys school, Fortwilliam College, Our Lady of Mercy in Ballysillan and at St Mary's in West Belfast.

A controlled explosion was carried out on a package outside Fortwilliam College before it was declared a hoax at around 10.30am.

Describing the attacks as completely wrong and unjustifiable, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said those responsible were deliberately selecting the most vulnerable targets to further whatever agenda they have.

"Any harassment, threats or attacks directed directed against schools is deplorable and must be brought to an end immediately. All children, no matter what denomination, have an absolute right to education free from these kind of threats."

Hoax bomb alert

A suspected loyalist pipe bomb was found by children playing near their homes in McClure Street in Belfast at around 5.30pm on Sunday 21 September.

British Army bomb disposal experts who carried out a controlled explosion described it as an elaborate hoax.

McClure Street is on an interface with the loyalist Donegall Pass area.

South Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Alex Maskey said golf balls, ball bearings and paint bombs have been thrown at residents of McClure Street all week but this was more sinister, because loyalist youths had crossed the railway line and left the device in their campaign to terrorise residents.

"I would urge loyalist community leaders to use their influences to stop this sort of thing happening," said Maskey.


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