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Children could have been killed when loyalist thugs fired shots inside Coleraine house

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The scene of the shooting at Ballysally in Coleraine

The scene of the shooting at Ballysally in Coleraine

The scene of the shooting at Ballysally in Coleraine

Two gunmen who fired shots in a house in Coleraine where three small children were present with three adults should be charged with attempted mass murder, a neighbour has said.

Detectives investigating what is understood to have been a loyalist paramilitary gun attack at a house in Ballysally close to midnight on Sunday have described those responsible as "faceless thugs".

The people who lived in the house at Loughanhill Park have fled the property and while most of the residents nearby were reluctant to comment one woman said she was horrified.

She said: "I didn't hear the shooting but everyone is talking about it now.

"This place has had its problems but firing guns inside a house with three children in it is a new low.

"It is sickening to think that those three wee pets could have been shot dead.

"This could have resulted in mass murder and if ever the police get the boys who did this, that's what they should be charged with."

It is understood the children's mother, her partner, another male and two of the children were all downstairs when the masked gunmen forced their way inside and fired the guns before making their escape.

Detective Inspector Peter McKenna said: "Two of the children were downstairs and the adults were in the kitchen when the gunmen fired a number of shots, some of which struck the kitchen table.

"Thankfully no one was injured during this reckless attack that was carried out by faceless thugs who clearly have no regard for the safety of others.

"What is clear is the hypocrites who carried out this violent attack don't care at all about the children in the community.

"There is absolutely no justification for an attack like this and we must all work together to bring those responsible to justice and to stop this from happening."

Progressive Unionist Party councillor for the area Russell Watton said there hadn't been an attack of this nature in Ballysally for two years or more.

He added many residents "are sad that guns have made a return, especially in a house where three young children were present".

"I have worked tirelessly on the ground, as have others, trying to bring these attacks by loyalist paramilitaries to a halt and I thought our message was getting through," he said.

"I will continue to do what I can to deter young people from falling under the influence of paramilitaries and encourage everyone who has any concerns to take them to the police."

Mr Watton said that while "a lot of good work" has been done in Ballysally by community groups, such as Building Ballysally Together, "more needs to be done across our wider society" to make that "this sort of rough justice" unacceptable.

Ulster Unionist councillor William McCandless, who urged people to work with the police, said the violence was unjustified.

"There were three young children in the house under the age of five," he said.

"Our community does not support such action, there was no justification before and there is still no place for weapons being brought onto our streets by criminal elements.

"No one or any group should think that they have the right to intimidate or subject any section of our community to the use of violence, it is never the answer.

"There is no excuse for this sort of behaviour and I appeal to anyone who has any knowledge of this incident to report it to the police."

Belfast Telegraph