Dissident republicans were today being blamed for shooting a man during one of two armed raids on legally-held weapons in west Belfast.
Two men are being questioned in police custody after the victim, aged in his 30s, was shot in the leg after refusing to hand over guns when a gang burst into his home yesterday.
The victim’s ordeal began at around 6.30pm when three armed men — two wearing balaclavas and one with a scarf around his face — entered the house in Larkspur Rise, close to the Suffolk Road, and demanded he hand over a number of legally-held firearms.
When the man refused, he was shot in the leg by one of the intruders before the gang grabbed the weapons and ammunition and fled the scene.
The man was rushed to hospital and his injuries are understood to be serious but not life-threatening.
Detectives are investigating a link between a similar incident in west Belfast within an hour of the shooting.
Shortly after 7.15pm, three men dressed in dark clothing called at a house in the Ballymurphy Road area. They forced the householder to hand over a number of legally-held weapons and ammunition.
While no-one was injured during the second robbery, one victim was treated for shock.
According to sources in the area, dissident republicans are being blamed for the armed thefts. The PSNI would not comment on this today.
A police spokesman said detectives believe the two thefts are linked.
This newspaper was told that dissidents were acting on information they received that legally-held weapons and ammunition were being stored in at least one of the premises.
Last night, police arrested two men, one aged 34 and the other 30, in relation to the robberies. The pair were detained by officers after they noticed a vehicle acting suspiciously near a leisure centre on the Whiterock Road, not far from the scene of the second robbery.
Sinn Fein councillor Gerard O’Neill condemned those responsible, adding the Suffolk Road community was shocked by the shooting.
“Local people are just shocked,” he said this morning. “This was a local man, who is quite well-known in the area, minding his own business and he had this visited upon him.
“This type of behaviour and activity needs to stop.”