The unionist paramilitary UVF is being blamed after a masked gang this week threatened to shoot a man at his home while his 14-year-old son was inside. Three men, one armed with a gun, threw a brick at the house on Blythe Street in Sandy Row in south Belfast before threatening the man.
The men were dressed in black and wearing balaclavas. The victim of the attack, who did not wish to be identified, said he ran out when he heard the brick hitting the house on Wednesday evening.
“I looked round and three of them were standing there,” he said.
“Then one said ‘get him’.” “I heard click, click, click, but the gun didn’t go off. It must have jammed or something. I ran back in and told my son to run upstairs.”
The man said it was the fourth time his house had been attacked within the last eight months. In two separate attacks in May, a hoax device was thrown at the house and windows were smashed with a sledgehammer.
“Last night was the worst,” he said. He blames the UVF for the attack and said the loyalist group have targeted him following a dispute.
The attack comes amid increased loyalist paramilitary activity as the Protestant marching season advances towards a climax next month.
Again this year, a UVF gang was observed erecting loyalist flags at a north Belfast interface while under the watchful eye of the PSNI.
The flags were erected on lampposts close to the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue earlier this week, within sight of the PSNI armoured vehicles. The site is just yards from Catholic-owned business and homes in Ardoyne.
The development comes almost a year to the day since the PSNI publicly claimed they would treat attempts to raise loyalist flags on a mixed section of the Ormeau Road in south Belfast as a breach of the peace. At the time, Sinn Féin assembly member Alex Maskey said the PSNI had “brought themselves into disrepute” after they stood and watched flags being put up in the area.
A spokesman for Sinn Féin said the “erection of these flags is a highly provocative act, particularly at this time of the year and is designed to intimidate local residents.”
TOUR OF THE NORTH
Loyalists and unionists have held almost daily protests in the area since the anti-Catholic Orange Order were banned by the Parades Commission from holding a sectarian parade through the nationalist area in July 2013.
This week, Orangemen expressed further outrage at a decision by the Parades Commission to restrict the annual ‘Tour of the North’ sectarian parade from playing their tunes within earshot of St Patrick’s Catholic church.
The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast denounced the Parades Commission as “increasingly aloof and discredited” and “a mouthpiece for republican propaganda”.
Earlier in the week, loyalist flags were erected by a gang outside a Catholic church in east Belfast, close to a volatile interface. The area has been the scene of increased interface violence in recent weeks with attacks on property in the nationalist Short Strand.
A house in Bryson Street in Short Strand was attacked with paint bombs at on Tuesday night while an hour earlier, three petrol bombs were thrown at a property in nearby Strand Walk causing damage to pipes and guttering.
Reports of missiles being thrown have been ongoing since the previous week, when two bombs were thrown at homes in Short Strand.
Residents have said attacks on their homes have been “organised and planned” by paramilitaries attempting to stoke up tensions ahead of the marching season.
One of those attacked, who did not want to be named, said: “I have been involved in cross-community work trying to keep tensions low. Perhaps that is why I have been targeted. There is a select few across (the interface) that have no intention of keeping any peace.”
“This is organised and it is planned. The past two months it has been intermittent attacks throughout the day. They are trying to get a reaction from this side of the street.”