A senior loyalist paramilitary was shot dead at point blank range by masked gunmen this afternoon on the Shankill Road in Belfast.
The man, named as Bobby Moffat, is understood to have been a leader of the Red Hand Commando (RHC), which is aligned with the UVF.
It is believed Moffat was killed as part of an internal loyalist dispute and there was no Republican involvement. Moffat is thought to have been in dispute with the UVF.
The killing will prompt questions about the status of the UVF ceasefire as well as claims earlier this year to have decommissioned its weapons.
Ulster Unionist Party member Bill Manwaring arrived at the scene and tried to offer first aid.
He said the dead man had suffered severe injuries to his face and hand, and added: “By the time I had arrived, it had already happened. Some colleagues were helping put him in the recovery position.
“The injuries were horrific and young children were on the street when this happened.”
He added: “We had 40 years of this area suffering from this kind of activity and there is no reason for this. It is unacceptable.”
A local resident who witnessed the shooting said: “I thought it was a car backfiring. I heard about four shots and saw the gunmen standing in the middle of the road wearing balaclavas and orange tops.
“I saw the bloke lying there. I think he was shot in the head or the face.
“They ran up Conway Street. I don’t know if there was a car waiting, but they just disappeared.
“The reaction in the Shankill is very bitter and people are really shocked, it really could have been worse.”
Sinn Fein Assembly member for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, said people in the area want to be able to go about their everyday lives free from the threat of violence.
“Whatever the circumstances surrounding this shooting or whoever was involved in it, this should not have happened and it is now crucial that the PSNI are given every assistance from the community in that area to apprehend those responsible,” Mr Maskey said.