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Man chased by masked pair through busy streets before he was shot dead

Police called it a ‘brutal murder’ and condemned the killers’ ‘brazen recklessness’.

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The scene at Rodney Parade in west Belfast (Jim Corr/PA)

The scene at Rodney Parade in west Belfast (Jim Corr/PA)

The scene at Rodney Parade in west Belfast (Jim Corr/PA)

A man was chased by two masked gunmen through streets packed with people and motorists before he was shot dead, police in Belfast have said.

The PSNI have launched a murder investigation after the man, who has significant links to dissident republicans, was shot a number of times in St Katharine’s Road in west Belfast just before 1pm today.

Detective Chief Inspector Darren McCartney criticised the “brutal murder”.

He said: “I have launched a murder investigation following the fatal shooting of a man in his late 20s this afternoon.

“I believe the man was chased from the junction of Rodney Parade and St James’s Road along Rodney Parade by two masked gunmen before he was shot a number of times at close range in St Katharine’s Road.

“This was a brutal murder and the brazen recklessness of the killers completely beggars belief.

“They did not give any thought to the risk posed to local people in this community who were going about their business at lunchtime when they ran through the streets firing shots. Nor did they care who may have been collateral damage in this highly populated residential area during their mission to kill.

“My thoughts are very much with the family of the victim who are tonight in a state of shock and grieving for their loved one. No family should ever have to go through this heartbreak.”

Detective McCartney said it is too early to speculate on the motive for the murder but said that police will be working to piece together all the information and evidence.

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The scene at Rodney Parade in west Belfast (Jim Corr/PA)

The scene at Rodney Parade in west Belfast (Jim Corr/PA)

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The scene at Rodney Parade in west Belfast (Jim Corr/PA)

He continued: “I know the community is in shock but I would appeal to anyone who has information about this appalling murder to bring that forward to the police so that we can remove these dangerous gunmen from the streets.

“I would like to hear from anyone who saw the victim being chased by the two gunmen in the Rodney Drive, St James’s Road, Rodney Parade and St Katharine’s Road areas before and after the shooting.

“I am aware the area was busy with pedestrians and motorists so I am asking anyone who may have captured any footage of the incident to please make that available to us also.

“Please call detectives with any information on 101.”

SDLP west Belfast councillor Brian Heading said the “brutal crime” has caused immense shock in the area.

He said: “Police have locked down the street where the shooting took place. I would urge everyone to co-operate with PSNI officers as they investigate.

“Those responsible for this barbaric crime have no support here.

“They need to be caught and brought to justice. I would encourage anyone with information to bring it to the police as soon as possible.”

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said: “Tragically, we have heard of another brutal murder in west Belfast.

“I have been on the ground speaking to residents in the area this afternoon and people are outraged at this horrific attack.

“These barbaric actions heap pain and trauma on our community. They have no place in our society. Thoughts with the individual and their family.”

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said the local man was shot dead in a “brutal and shameful attack”.

He added: “My thoughts are with the family of the man who has been killed. No family should have to go through this heartache.

“Those involved in this act have absolutely no place in our community, they must cease their anti-community activities and get off the back of the people of west Belfast.

“Those responsible must be held accountable before the courts.

“A police operation is ongoing in the St James’ area and I would appeal to anyone with information on this shooting to bring it forward to the PSNI.”

PA