UDA attack youths amid simmering north Belfast tension

There were serious disturbances in the Whitewell area of north Belfast at the weekend before a controversial unionist parade passed through the troubled sectarian interface.

A nationalist motorbike rider and his female pillion passenger were kicked and beaten by a loyalist gang. Local residents were angered that, despite the attack taking place in full view of a PSNI police camera, no attempt was made to intervene and no arrests were made.

Sinn Féin North Belfast councillor Danny Lavery has said that following a UDA show of strength in the area on Saturday that many local people had feared that there would be a sectarian attack.

``This was a sectarian attack carried out by the UDA on a young nationalist in the Whitewell area. It was deliberate and premeditated,'' he said.

``This young man is extremely lucking to be alive today.

There was also tension over graffiti relating to an incident involving a Protestant boy three years ago, whose death the parade marked. The graffiti was immediately removed, however.

Meanwhile, the UDA has claimed responsibility for an attack in north Belfast in which a stolen digger was rammed through the front wall of a crowded pub.

The pub was rammed by the digger last week in what has been described as a ``calculated attempt at mass murder''.

More than 20 customers escaped serious injury when the front wall of the 32 Degrees North bar on the Crumlin Road at Ardoyne collapsed.

The telescopic digger had been stolen from a nearby building site. A fire broke out at the site of the hole left in the side of the building, which sits on the nationalist side of a sectarian interface.

The UDA, using the `Red Hand Commando' cover name, claimed its actions were in retaliation for alleged sectarian intimidation of Protestants in the Torrens estate.

A caller using a recognised codeword also said the unionist paramilitary organisation was responsible for bullets sent by post to Sinn Féin members this week and threatened further attacks.

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy revealed that one of the bullets was addressed to the home of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

``It is clear that unionist paramilitaries have intensified their ongoing violent campaign over the past number of weeks,'' he said. ``Yet despite these threats and the attempt at mass murder in an Ardoyne pub on Thursday night unionist politicians will no doubt continue to focus their attentions on the silent guns of the IRA while ignoring and in some cases justifying ongoing unionist paramilitary attacks on the nationalist community.

``The hypocrisy of their position is both breathtaking and indeed insulting.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News