Belfast Telegraph

Dissident republicans blamed for latest punishment shooting

By Cate McCurry

There have been fresh calls for police to urgently redouble their efforts to thwart paramilitary-style attacks after a man in his 20s was shot in the foot.

The victim was approached by a gang of four men on Sunday night and ordered into an alleyway in west Belfast, where he was shot once after being told to lie on the ground.

The masked men confronted him at an entryway at Laurelbank in Poleglass at approximately 10pm.

Dissident republicans were blamed for the attack, which saw the victim taken to hospital for treatment on non life-threatening gunshot wounds.

The shooting - the latest in a spate of paramilitary-style incidents - follows a similar attack on a man in Turf Lodge, also in west Belfast, last month. It comes just three months after the murder of taxi driver Michael McGibbon, who was shot in the leg by dissident republicans close to his north Belfast home and died in the arms of his wife, Joanne.

Sunday night's incident was condemned by DUP Assembly member Nelson McCausland, who said there has been a dangerous upsurge in punishment shootings, particularly in nationalist areas.

A Belfast Telegraph photographer was at the scene as paramedics treated the young man for his injuries.

Pictures showed the victim being taken to an ambulance with his right foot bandaged.

According to the latest figures, there were 14 casualties as a result of paramilitary-style shootings - 13 of them carried out by republican groups - between April last year and this March.

Mr McCausland, a member of the Policing Board, said there had been a rise in the number of incidents in north Belfast.

"A number of these examples are in Ardoyne and in the New Lodge area, so it's clear that there has been an upsurge in such attacks," he added.

"This time of activity is totally unacceptable. It's criminal behaviour carried out by people who clearly have access to guns and who need to be removed from the streets as soon as possible, because the guns that can be used to wound can also be used to murder.

"This type of activity damages the community in which it takes place, and I would urge people in nationalist communities to do everything possible to help catch the perpetrators, so they can be brought before the courts. There must be people in those communities who know who is doing it, what organisation they are doing it on behalf of and where the weapons are being stored.

"If people know that, then there is a duty on them to provide information to the police.

"There needs to be a more intense policing effort in those areas, and this is only (done) by good surveillance. The policing operation needs stepped up. It is indicative of communities that are now really dysfunctional where this type of activity is accepted as part of the way it has to be, rather than (people) going to the police and give information to get people arrested.

"There is almost a sense of resignation that this will continue, and that's intolerable as children grow up in a society where that is the norm."

Local Sinn Fein MLA Jennifer McCann also condemned the latest gun attack and urged the public to help the police.

The west Belfast MLA said: "This attack on a young man in the Laurelbank area of Poleglass was wrong, and I condemn it.

"There can be no place for these types of incidents in our society.

"I call on anyone with information on this shooting to bring it forward to the PSNI."

Belfast Telegraph


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