Jammed gun prevents UDA murder
A gun attack on a Catholic taxi driver in north Belfast at the
weekend is the start of a killing campaign against all republican
ex-prisoners, according to the unionist paramilitary UDA.
Using a recognised code word, a caller to a Belfast newsroom
claimed responsibility for the gun attack on a taxi driver in
north Belfast. He made the call in the name of the Red Hand
Defenders, a flag of convenience for the Ulster Defence
The caller claimed the target was a former IRA prisoner and added
that similar attacks would follow.
On Saturday night, a gang of four UDA men were travelling in the
taxi when one held a gun to the victim's head. He attempted to
shoot the victim twice but the gun jammed. A struggle ensued
and the driver managed to run from the car uninjured, while his
attackers fled in the direction of a loyalist estate.
The incident folllows a major PSNI operation against the north
Belfast UDA which resulted in 17 arrests last Thursday. Sinn Fein
councillor Caral Ni Chuilin said unionists paramilitaries were
now actively targeting the nationalist community.
"After the arrests of a number of leading loyalists in north
Belfast recently it was only a matter of time before their
supporters lashed out at the nationalist community," she said.
"This taxi driver is lucky to be alive. This was a pre-planned
sectarian murder bid."
PSNI police delivered a warning of death threats made against at
least three North Belfast taxi firms and to the homes of a number
of local men on Tuesday night.
Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said the developments were
further evidence that the UDA's public claims on ending its
activities were nothing more than a 'PR stunt'. "How do they
square this circle when they are making threats under the names
of the Red Hand Defenders," he asked.
Mr Kelly said the DUP had created a political vacuum in which
loyalist violence could flourish. The north Belfast
representative said the DUP could not divorce itself from the
attempted murder and urged the party to speak out publicly and
call on the UDA to withdraw such threats."
"Here we have an organisation intent on killing a Catholic in the
past few days. There is no excuse for it," Mr Kelly said. "The
DUP need to take some of the blame for this. They have created a
political vacuum and, with the governments pandering to the DUP,
it unfortunately has this type of result.
"It did not take a great understanding of our history to predict
that this would happen. A Catholic man almost paid with his life
on Saturday night as a result.
"The DUP need to realise that there is a price being paid for
their continuing failure to engage, and the two governments have
to realise that there is a price being paid for their continuing
pandering to the DUP."
The Sinn Fein spokesman on policing and justice said the DUP was
guilty of double standards.
"The DUP sit on forums with the UDA, the organisation responsible
for this murder bid. Yet they continue to refuse to engage with
Sinn Fein about the business of putting the political
institutions back in place. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking."
SHOUKRI GOES FREE
The attack and threats were being seen as a direct result of the
PSNI raids last week.
Senior north Belfast loyalist Ihab Shoukri was one of 17 people
arrested after police raided a north Belfast bar on Thursday.
However, Shoukri walked free 48 hours later despite being caught
in a room with men in paramilitary uniform and appearing to have
broken bail conditions banning him from entering Belfast and
associating with known paramilitaries.
Nationalists have routinely protested at the apparent inability
to put Mr Shoukri behind bars. The so-called 'brigadier', who is
awaiting trial for UDA membership, previously broke bail
conditions in 2004, but was again released.
Gerry Kelly said "serious questions" remained over Shoukri's
recent release, which was confirmed by a Belfast court on
Wednesday. He also called for nationalists to be vigilant
following the recent increase in tension in Belfast.
"The UDA and PSNI seem to be at loggerheads and in those
situations it is often the case that nationalists become
targets," he said.
"I would appeal for people to vigilant in regards to their