AP front 1 - 2022

1 May 2003 Edition

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UDA campaign escalates in North Belfast

There are serious concerns about the continuous escalation of sectarian violence at several North Belfast interface areas.

There is little doubt the UDA is behind the trouble and this past weekend things turned decidedly more sinister when a UDA gunman opened fire on PSNI members, wounding two.

The incident took place on the Limestone Road in North Belfast on Saturday, 26 April. Just before 9pm, several young nationalists from the Newington area emerged from a shop and were struck with stones and bricks thrown by four unionist youths. Other nationalist youths saw this and chased the unionists back down the road towards Tigers Bay.

As a result, unionists then sounded their "alert" siren, and large groups of older men suddenly emerged onto the street. The ensuing standoff involved more than 150 people on both sides, and when crown forces finally arrived and moved in, a loyalist gunman opened fire with a shotgun.

The PSNI have called the attack "attempted murder," saying the two officers were left "severely traumatised". They were treated in hospital for wounds to the legs, back, and face. Four other members of the crown forces were injured after being pelted with bricks and one person was arrested for "riotous behaviour".

After about 40 minutes of sustained violence, an uneasy calm was finally restored.

The UDA, speaking through its publicity department the Ulster Political Research Group, claimed that no loyalists had been involved in the incident.

Speaking on their behalf, Sammy Duddy stated, "I have been speaking to senior figures in the UDA and they have assured me their 'no gun policy' still holds."

But even the PSNI's Superintendent David Boultwood said he had "no doubt" that the person responsible for the shooting was connected to unionist paramilitaries. Although Boultwood has said that at this stage he could not prove the gunman was definitely a member of the UDA, he confirmed that the man would face serious charges.

"Given the relatively short distance the gunman was away from police, he must have known he could kill my officers by shooting at them. He was at least reckless, whether he killed anyone or not."

Sinn Féin's Gerard Brophy has no doubt as to the involvement of unionist paramilitaries in the ongoing trouble.

"The loyalists who are attacking these houses are not children," said Brophy. "They are youths between 16 and 18 years of age, with a sprinkling of well-known UDA figures among them."

"It is not coming from the nationalist side. Nationalists there want to live in peace and quiet but they are not being allowed to by the UDA in Tigers Bay."

"They must finally have turned the cameras on," one nationalist resident said sarcastically, "because on Sunday night a few kids from Tigers Bay started down the street towards us and the peelers were here in seconds instead of half an hour later."

Nationalists have repeatedly maintained that nearby CCTV cameras are not being used to stop unionist incursions or arrest attackers, but simply to spy on Catholic residents.

When nationalist homes have come under attack in the past, the PSNI has often claimed the cameras were not working. However, the PSNI has confirmed this week that footage from the cameras is being examined in an effort to identify the gunman.

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