Irish Republican News · January 16, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: UDA violence could signal major escalation
UDA violence could signal major escalation

Unionist paramilitaries have been blamed for a wave of bomb alerts in Belfast following a jail riot and attacks on the homes of republicans.

Earlier today, British army bomb disposal experts were sent to examine cars abandoned at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic school on the Ballysillen Road.

The M1 road between Lisburn and Broadway has been closed due to a similar alert. There are also alerts at Kennedy Way, at the junction of the Falls Road and Springfield Road in west Belfast and in the White Abbey. Many of the alerts involve abandoned cars with gas cylinders visible inside.

A number of controlled explosions were carried out on a suspicious car in Belfast overnight. British army technical officers were called to examine the vehicle on the Ormeau Road. The incident near Sinn Fein offices was later declared a hoax.

Another suspicious vehicle examined in the east of the city overnight was also declared a hoax.

North Belfast Sinn Fein member Mr Gerry Kelly said the alerts across Belfast was the paramilitary UDA ``flexing their muscles after the disturbances in Maghaberry on Wednesday night''.

``These bomb alerts are part of a well-planned campaign and are designed to cause maximum disruption.

``The fact is that the UDA cessation has been, in effect, over for a number of years and that organisation has been involved in an orchestrated campaign of violence against the wider Catholic community. It is in this context that we must view these latest actions,'' he added.

JAIL RIOT

The alerts, which brought traffic across Belfast to a standstill, were part of a significant increase in UDA activity this week which began with serious rioting by UDA prisoners at Maghaberry jail on Wednesday night.

Eighteen prison warders were reported injured as loyalist prisoners rioted for 12 hours at Maghaberry jail on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

A prison officer's station was torched and gutted, table tennis tables and snooker tables were broken up and used as blockades as 35 loyalists rampaged in protest at the failure of the British government to proceed with moves to segregate prisoners. A fire was also lit, causing some smoke damage.

Previously announced plans to permanently separate loyalist and republican prisoners have not been acted upon despite serious tensions between the groups within the prison.

Two pipe bombs found and defused in north Belfast on Wednesday night were linked to the prison protest.

Bomb disposal experts were also called to deal with a suspect device strapped to a grille at the jail, which turned out to be an elaborate hoax.

Visits to Maghaberry jail were cancelled yesterday as officials assessed the damage, which amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

As well as dealing with disorder inside the jail, the homes of prison officers have been targeted by pipe and petrol bombers.

BELFAST ATTACKS

Meanwhile, The UDA is believed to be using Information held by police to mount attacks on republican homes.

Houses owned by Sinn Fein Lisburn councillor Paul Butler and the party's West Belfast Assembly member Fra McCann were hit by ball bearings in a fresh outbreak of violence against party representatives.

Dozens of homes, the majority of which are owned by Sinn Fein members, have been attacked in the Belfast area in the last six months.

Nobody was hurt when the ball bearings struck bullet-proof glass although missiles did shatter windows.

The attacks are mainly intended to send the message that the UDA now has the resources to kill prominent republicans at will.

Mr Butler said: ``Whoever is behind these attacks has accurate information about the addresses of republicans. The only agency that has this information is the PSNI.

``However, those behind the attacks need to realise that they will not succeed in intimidating Sinn Fein elected representatives from doing their jobs.''

CEASEFIRE ANNIVERSARY

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The riot and today's wave of bomb alerts came ahead of the 12-month anniversary of a `ceasefire' declaration last February. That announcement, one of several similar declarations in recent years, was largely dismissed by nationalists as sectarian attacks continued on Catholics.

The UDA has also continued to wage gang warfare in a battle over the proceeds of crime, and has latterly turned to racist attacks against ethnic minorities in South Belfast.

Last year's ceasefire was not recognised by the British government and the group remains an illegal organisation, which rankles with UDA bosses.

One senior UDA source was reported to have claimed the next seven days would be crucial as to whether its ``ceasefire'' would be extended.

© 2004 Irish Republican News