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'Paramilitary' attacks on the rise

Published 12/05/2015

Paramilitary-style attacks, on the rise again, were much more common during the Troubles
Paramilitary-style attacks, on the rise again, were much more common during the Troubles

Almost 100 people were targeted in paramilitary-style attacks in Northern Ireland last year.

Most were assaulted - but 36 were shot, according to police figures. The number of cases has increased in the past year.

Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process have stepped up their activity level in recent weeks.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland statement said: " Senior police officers have also been very vocal over the last 12 months, about the need for community support to tackle the issue of paramilitary-style attacks."

During 2014/15, there were 94 victims as a result of paramilitary-style attacks, the service said.

This is 24 more than the previous year, but 58 fewer than the number that occurred 10 years ago in 2005/6 (152).

Some 58 victims were assaulted, while the remaining 36 were shot.

The IRA has disbanded and decommissioned arms. However, there has been a renewed effort by dissident factions to target police.

Paramilitary-style attacks, sometimes known as knee-capping, were historically carried out against individuals deemed to have offended gangs and designed to exert influence over communities and bypass the police. In 2007, Sinn Fein said it would support the PSNI and the number is much lower than during the 30-year conflict.

But the tally is on the rise, while community leaders in a Northern Ireland city have warned of an atmosphere of fear.

Recently, two bombs found close to an Army Reserve centre in Londonderry were left about 20 metres from nearby homes.

A device found in north Belfast on May 1 was a substantial bomb targeting police officers, the PSNI said.

Dissidents are likely suspects in both cases.

Separately, a former IRA commander was recently shot dead in South Belfast. Dissidents are not suspected, but detectives have said the investigation will be challenging.

Last year, PSNI said the loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had been orchestrating racist attacks in south and east Belfast.

Security will be tight next week with Prince Charles and and the Duchess of Cornwall due to visit Northern Ireland and Mullaghmore in the Republic - where Charles's great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was killed by the IRA in 1979.

A bomb exploded outside Derry's Probation Board offices, which handles offenders, last month.

Presbyterian moderator Michael Barry held a special breakfast for members of the service.

He said: "The attack just beggars belief, especially on an organisation that works so hard to keep the community safe. Much of your work goes unnoticed and I daresay unthanked, so I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the work that you do.

"As a church, we have a long association with the probation service, working closely with you in a number of different areas. I understand that it is a demanding role and recognise the stresses and strains as you work with people who have fallen foul of the law.

"But the work that you do is important and as a church and a people called to be one of service and outreach, working in partnership with you for the benefit of others in places like Thompson House, we find that it is an invaluable partnership."

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