Combat 18 in sectarian attacks
BY DEIRDRE FEEHAN
Thgugs affiliated to the racist group Combat 18 are responsible for a wave of unprovoked attacks on Catholics in the predominately Protestant town of Rathfriland, Co Down, says Sinn Féin South Down representative Mick Murphy.
Now local nationalists fear that the neo-nazi group is planning to step up its campaign as the marching season approaches. The organisation has existed in the area for over three years. A gang of at least ten Combat 18 members is reported to have set up illegal road blocks during the Drumcree standoff last year. Since then, thugs wearing Combat 18 uniforms have maintained a high profile in the area.
On Sunday 9 April, two nationalist youths were set upon by a gang of Combat 18 members. One was hit over the head with a chain. As they ran from the gang, they were confronted by two car loads of loyalists and a fight occurred.
The two nationalist youths were arrested and subsequently charged with two counts of grievous bodily harm with intent.
DUP Assembly member for south Down Jim Wells described the incident as ``clearly a sectarian attack by nationalists,'' but Sinn Féin's Mick Murphy dismissed Wells' claims, saying that Combat 18 members have been patrolling the streets of Rathfriland intimidating and singling out Catholics for attack.
``People are talking about an orchestrated campaign against Protestants, but these loyalists and certain unionist figures are the ones responsible for heightening tensions in Rathfriland'', said Murphy.