[Partridge: I knew this was too good to be true]

Loyalists launch murder campaign
Daily Ireland

Red Hand Defenders say all republican ex-prisoners are considered ‘targets again’ in call to Daily Ireland

Loyalist paramilitaries have launched a fresh murder campaign against republican ex-prisoners. A caller to Daily Ireland last night, claiming to represent the Red Hand Defenders, said that as of midnight last night all republican ex-prisoners are considered “legitimate targets again”.

Using a recognised code word, he claimed responsibility for the attempted murder of a Catholic taxi driver in north Belfast on Saturday night. The caller claimed the target was a former IRA prisoner and added that similar attacks would follow. The Red Hand Defenders has been used as a flag of convenience for a number of loyalist paramilitary organisations, most notably the Ulster Defence Association.

Using the Red Hand Defenders name, the north Belfast UDA murdered three young men — Gavin Brett, Danny McColgan and Gerard Lawlor — in 2001 and 2002. After a major PSNI operation against the north Belfast UDA which resulted in 17 arrests last Thursday, Sinn Féin warned the group was preparing to target nationalists.

Eleven of those arrested are to appear before Belfast magistrates’ court today charged with helping to set up a meeting supporting a banned group. Seven are charged with wearing clothes associated with a paramilitary group.

The cab driver at the centre of Saturday’s murder bid had been called to pick up four males at the Mater hospital in north Belfast. He works for a firm in the nationalist New Lodge area of the city.

As he drove them to the Ligoniel district, one of the men placed a pistol against the back of his head. The weapon jammed as he pulled the trigger.
A struggle then broke out and the driver managed to run from the car. The men then fled from the scene, running off into the loyalist Ballysillan area.
Sinn Féin councillor Carál N^ Chuil^n said loyalist paramilitaries are actively targeting the nationalist community.

“After the arrests of a number of leading loyalists in north Belfast recently it was only a matter of time before their supporters lashed out at the nationalist community,” she said. “This taxi driver is lucky to be alive. This was a pre-planned sectarian murder bid.”

Detectives investigating the murder bid are understood to be examining CCTV footage taken for the Mater hospital and from a security camera at the Carlisle Circus roundabout.

The gunman is believed to be approximately 25-years-old, with short ginger hair. He was wearing a washed-out denim baseball cap and had a bruised left eye.