Police probe image of masked gang of thugs next to sectarian graffiti threatening to crucify Catholics in Belfast
Police are probing images of an armed gang posing next to graffiti threatening to crucify catholics in Belfast.
It's an image which sent a chill right through Northern Ireland.
An image of the graffiti was shared on social media on Monday afternoon which appears to show the graffiti near the nationalist St James area and the Royal Victoria Hospital.
It's understood 'VTOT' stands for Village Team On Tour, in reference to a gang based in the staunchly loyalist area of south Belfast.
A masked gang clutching large bats can be seen in the picture beside the graffiti which reads "taigs will be crucified".
Detective Inspector Declan White said: “Police are currently investigating images that have appeared on social media.
"I would appeal to anyone who has any information about this incident to contact police at Strandtown on the non-emergency number 101. Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111."
The image was shared on social media with many voicing concern at the message being seen as thousands of people descended on the city over the weekend for the Tall Ships festival.
Meanwhile social media users, who identified themselves as being Protestant, have taken to the Belfast Telegraph's Facebook page to express their disgust and anger.
One user said: "To all Catholics reading this. Please please never believe that every Protestant thinks this way. We don't!! This makes me ashamed to be one today."
The comment has received over 1,000 likes at the time of writing and hundreds of replies. The sentiment was echoed by many other users who also identified themselves as Protestants.
The user added: "I would absolutely hate to think I'd be associated with such scum. I brought my own children up to understand that we are all human beings, we bleed red blood and our organs are all in the same place.
"I wanted to teach them that the human being was more important than the religion they were brought up in. I just don't understand why others can't do the same."
Many users assured the commenter that 'there is no need to feel ashamed'.
One of the many replies said: "You are a credit to yourself and your parents and you don't have to apologise for the actions of these animals."
Another said: "Great to see the vast majority on here all united in their views and need to move away from all this hatred. This represents the type of country I want to live in!"
One reader commented: "I have a lot of Protestant friends. When I look at them I don't see religion - I see friends."
Another user said that those posing in the photo were "pathetic, little boys, who haven't got a clue about the real world, trying to play gangster".