27 May 2004 Edition

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Loyalist feud escalates

The renewed feud involving the unionist paramilitary gangs the UVF and the LVF has intensified over the past number of days, with five bombings and a number of shootings in loyalist areas of East Belfast and Holywood in County Down.

In the aftermath of the killing of Holywood LVF commander Brian Stewart by the UVF on Tuesday 18 May, that organisation has carried out at least four other bomb attacks on LVF targets.

In a retaliatory attack, the LVF left a pipe bomb outside a flat in the Beech End area of Holywood. The detonation damaged the front door and porch of the flat, as well as roof tiles and the door of an adjoining flat, just after 1am on Tuesday 25 May.

In the first UVF bombing, a "substantial device" exploded in the early hours of Saturday morning 22 May at Bloomfield Court in the Beersbridge area. Extensive damage was caused to the targeted house and an adjoining house.

The intended target, Brian Ewing, had left shortly before the bomb exploded on his doorstep. Ewing has appeared in court twice on arms charges.

Then on Sunday 23 May, the UVF opened fire on a vacant house at Longstone Drive in the Ballybeen Estate in East Belfast.

Another UVF device, a blast bomb, exploded in Evelyn Avenue, East Belfast, early on Sunday Morning 23 May, shattering windows in a number of houses. Another device, which failed to explode, was made safe by British Army bomb experts.

A nail bomb was later discovered behind the house at Longstone Drive on Monday 24 May, the same day a house in London Street, East Belfast, was attacked by bombers. The bomb exploded in the front room, causing extensive damage to the interior.

The UVF attack on London Street came hours after the funeral of LVF man Stewart. Ironically, Stewart was buried in Roselawn Cemetery alongside his father William, who was a senior member of the UVF.

As tensions between the two unionist paramilitary organisations peak, the PSNI warned at least ten members of the Progressive Unionist Party and UVF that their lives were under threat from the LVF for the murder of Stewart on Tuesday 18 May.

Among those under threat are PUP leader David Ervine and fellow politician Billy Hutchinson, whose party is linked to the UVF and the UVF's County Down-based leader.

Hutchinson said the UVF would not be discussing the feud until after Stewart's funeral.

Sinn Féin Councillor for East Belfast Joe O'Donnell said loyalist feuds are becoming an annual event and should stop at once.

"This latest one certainly isn't helping the peace process and there is genuine concern from within the nationalist community that unionist paramilitaries will eventually turn their attentions towards them. That is why this pointless killing has to stop to allow the peace process to get back on track."

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