Outrage after paramilitary gang assaults man in Newtownards hammer attack
Church leaders in Newtownards have condemned a "brutal" hammer attack on a man.
Police said the paramilitary-style assault took place at a property near the Bangor Road around 8.45pm on Thursday.
A masked gang wearing high visibility jackets and wielding hammers carried out the attack, which left the man, aged in his 20s, hospitalised with serious head injuries.
The vehicle suspected of being used for the attack was located in the Glen Estate area a short time later.
A joint statement from Ards Churches Together, a collective of leaders from Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, non-denominational and other backgrounds, said those responsible were not representing their community.
The group said: "We were shocked and saddened to learn of the attack that took place on Thursday. This activity has no place in our town which is known as a warm and welcoming place.
"We urge those who plan and perpetrate attacks like these to realise the harm they cause to their own community, including their own family, friends and neighbours, when they engage in intimidation, fear and violence."
Extending an olive branch to those involved in criminality, the group added: "Local church leaders are willing to talk confidentially to anyone who wants to turn their lives around."
Residents said the area where the attack took place is popular with children during the evenings.
DUP councillor Naomi Armstrong-Cotter said it happened at Rosevale Avenue, just off the Bangor Road.
"It's fair to say this is a paramilitary attack," she said.
"I have two young children and it's shocking this actually happened so close to our home.
"We take our dog out walking in a loop around Rosevale.
"It's a family area and a lot of children would normally be about at that time of night. It's absolutely unacceptable.
"This is a nice area and I've never seen an attack like this taking place here.
"Our community doesn't behave in this way and I would sincerely urge those who know the men behind the masks to come forward.
"The message needs to be sent that we won't tolerate this kind of vigilante activity."
Police condemned the attack and appealed for information.
The PSNI said: "This was a brutal attack on a man in a residential area. Those involved do not represent the interests of the local community and contribute nothing to it.
"There is absolutely no justification for an attack like this in our communities, and we must all work together to bring those responsible to justice and to stop this from happening to anyone else.
"If you were in the area of Bangor Road, Newtownards, or Glen Estate, Newtownards, or if you know anything about this incident which could assist us with our investigation, please pick up the phone and call detectives at Bangor on 101 and quote reference number 2042 of July 25, 2019."
Information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.
The phone call is 100% anonymous.