Belfast Telegraph

Spike in city paramilitary attacks

Northern Ireland's second city has seen a dramatic spike in the number of so-called paramilitary punishment attacks, a senior police officer has warned.

There have been 25 incidents so far this year in Londonderry - a four-fold increase on the same period last year - with dissident republicans being blamed for most.

As well as 13 shootings - the latest of which happened last night - there were also pipe bomb attacks, assaults and incidents of criminal damage by groups meting out their own type of vigilante justice.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) commander in the North West, Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin said: "These figures are very concerning and tackling these issues is one of my priorities."

In the latest attack, a 17-year-old boy was shot in both legs. He was hit in the left thigh and right calf after two masked men opened fire in a grassy area of Ballymagroarty at about 11pm.

He was taken to hospital by his father and is being treated for non life threatening injuries.

Mr Cargin added: "Last night, the life of a young man from this city was put at risk and his future probably changed for ever by the barbaric actions of a few thugs

"He is receiving the best possible medial treatment, and while his life is not thought to be in danger, there may be longer term consequences."

Brutal punishment attacks - which are often carried out by appointment - were a tactic frequently employed by loyalists and republicans to deal with supposed anti-social behaviour including drug dealing. It was seen as a way to undermine the police and of tightening their grip on deprived communities.

Mr Cargin said: "This is not justice. Justice means that people should be able to account for their actions and openly defend themselves. Justice means that outcomes should be appropriate, and not handed out at the point of a gun by people who dare not show their faces.

"Once again we are going back in time. Many people believed we had moved on.

In the past five months, the PSNI has spent £570,000 deploying additional patrols and resources in a bid to thwart attacks.

Nineteen people have been arrested since February in Derry - but only two have been charged.

Mr Cargin said more information was needed to bring culprits before the courts.

"Police need information. Our appeal is for people to tell us what they know about this attack, and any others - or about the faceless people who carry them out

"The irony is that when we catch the people who carry out such brutal attacks, they will be treated with the proper justice and mercy that they deny their victims," he said.

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