Unionist paramilitaries crashed a fork lift truck into a north Belfast pub last night in an attempt to murder staff and customers.
Windows were smashed and structural damage caused to the Thirty Two Degrees North pub on the Crumlin Road as the vehicle smashed into the building.
The truck used in the attack just after midnight was driven from a building site at nearby Twaddell Avenue. It was packed with slates and burning wood, doused in petrol.
When that impacted on the building, the steel shutter of the bar was wrecked and a fire started.
Staff and customers managed to get out without being injured but were in a state of shock. However, they were then attacked by a mob some 50 loyalists at Twaddell Avenue who began throwing missiles towards the bar.
Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenaghan, who visited the scene, said it was “a well organised plan to cause as much death and damage as they possibly could.”
She said it was carried out by the UDA.
“There have been many attacks over the last few weeks in different areas across the north of the city.
“This was the most serious and it is by the grace of God that nobody was killed there last night.”
Meanwhile, the UVF was last night blamed for the shooting of a south Belfast taxi driver.
Stephen Clarke was sitting in a car in the Village area of south Belfast on Wednesday night when a gunman approached his car and opened fire.
Mr Clarke, who is a part owner of Windsor Taxi firm, was seriously injured after being struck in the head and chest. However, the motivation for the attack remains unclear.
South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey said that the area had seen an escalation in activity by by unionist paramilitaries.
“This has involved attacks on ethnic minority communities and also on Catholics living in a local apartment complex.
“As has become common practice the response of the various strands of political unionism has been muted in the face of this activity. Indeed many nationalists believe that statements made by a number of local unionist elected representatives have actually given succour to these paramilitary gangs.”
COUNCILLORS SENT BULLETS
Sinn Féin has said its members will not be intimidated after bullets in envelopes were intercepted by postal staff in the North. One councillor in Tyrone received a bullet in the mail.
Twelve councillors and assembly members across the Six Counties were told of threats against them. Those sent bullets included assembly members Alex Maskey (South Belfast), Gerry Kelly (North Belfast), Fra McCann (West Belfast) and Philip McGuigan (North Antrim).
A bullet was also intercepted en route to the home of the elderly parents of Belfast Republican Bobby Storey.
The suspicious packages were spotted in the sorting office in Mallusk, County Antrim on Wednesday night.
Party chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin blamed unionist paramilitaries for the intimidation.
“Sinn Féin members are unfortunately no strangers to this sort of organised campaign of intimidation,” he said. “A number of party members and elected representatives have been killed by unionist paramilitaries over the years and in recent weeks and months party members in North Antrim have been the victims of bomb attacks on their homes.”
A County Down mother-of-two has been the target of a pipe bomb attack on her home.
The pipe bomb bounced off the window and landed in the front garden on Monday night. It failed to explode, although it wasdescribed as a “viable device”.
part of an orchestrated sectarian campaign by loyalists, it has been claimed.
Ann Casey, who was in bed when the device was thrown, said the experience was terrifying.
“I thought it was a bomb going off, it made such a bang,” she said.
“This is the first time we have ever had any trouble and I hope it is the last time. The only reason I can think this happened is because I am a Catholic.”
Upper Bann Sinn Féin assembly member John O’Dowd said the bomb was part of a campaign against nationalist families by unionist paramilitaries.
Meanwhile, a petrol bomb was thrown at a house in Ennis-killen. The device was thrown at a home in the Drumbawn estate shortly before midnight on Monday. No-one was injured in the attack.