UDA behind series of shootings and beatings, say police
Police believe that loyalist paramilitaries with strong links to the UDA are behind a series of punishment-style attacks in the north Antrim area.
A Coleraine man in his early twenties was shot in both arms and legs yesterday in the latest of five separate incidents which started with the brutal murder of Ballymena man Brian McIlhagga in January.
The latest victim is recovering in hospital where he is being treated for what the PSNI describe as "potentially life-changing injuries".
Superintendent John Magill condemned the attacks as "absolutely unacceptable" as he called for the community to help the PSNI identify those who are responsible.
He said: "We cannot discard the possibility that these incidents are linked and a strong line of inquiry concerns the involvement of loyalist paramilitaries.
"I also believe that the people involved in these offences may be closely aligned to the UDA. There is no place for this type of activity in a civilised society".
The young man was with two other men at a house in Maple Drive, Coleraine, when four masked men entered around 4am.
Despite trying to escape from his attackers, they pursued him outside where they shot him again. The two other men were unharmed in the attack.
The attacks started on January 5 with the shooting of father-of-five Brian McIlhagga in Riverview Park, Ballymoney.
The 42-year-old had been severely beaten and shot in the leg as he visited his girlfriend, who was also beaten and injured.
He died of his injuries.
Superintendent Magill added: "I know that the vast majority of people in Ballymoney and north Antrim do not support these paramilitary-style attacks.
"I would ask for community support and information as we work to identify those responsible for the attacks."
He added: "I would ask specifically that anyone who saw suspicious activity in the Maple Drive area at around 4am this morning provides that information to police.
"Any person with information on any of these recent incidents should contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or contact police on the non-emergency number 101."
The other attacks police believe may be linked are:
- The shooting of a man in his 40s by masked men at a house on the Finvoy Road, Ballymoney, on March 19
- The shooting of a man in his 30s as he sat in a car on the Dunluce Road, Bushmills, on March 17
- The assault of a 45-year-old man by men with baseball bats in Carnany Drive, Ballymoney, on March 15