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Paramilitary-style attacks claim 80 victims in last year

By Deborah McAleese

More than 80 people have been injured in paramilitary-style shootings and beatings in Northern Ireland over the past year.

As police launch an investigation into the shooting of two men in Newry on Wednesday night, concern has reignited over increases in assaults by republican and loyalist terror groups.

Despite attempts by the PSNI to crack down on paramilitary-style attacks, the number of casualties reported to police has risen in the past three years.

In the most recent attack, two men in their 30s were wounded during shootings at separate locations in Newry on Wednesday.

One man was taken by four masked men from a house in Warrenpoint, driven to the Armagh Road and shot once in the leg.

The other was shot after a gunman called at the door of a house in Sandys Street. Neither of the victims' injuries are thought to be life-threatening.

Yesterday, police arrested two men aged 26 and 28 for kidnapping, attempted murder and possession of a firearm after stopping a car in Dungannon.

Last night they were assisting police with their enquiries.

Superintendent Simon Walls said: "We believe the incidents, which occurred in Sandys Street and Armagh Road in Newry, may be linked."

Recent police statistics show that up to the end of August there were 28 casualties from paramilitary-style shootings and 54 casualties of assaults within the space of 12 months.

Financial year statistics show that paramilitary style-shootings and attacks jumped from 63 in 2012/13 to 94 in 2014/15.

"This is a totally unwarranted act and a form of violence that belongs to the past," Margaret Ritchie, the SDLP MP for South Down said in relation to the shootings in Newry.

"This type of violence has been rejected by the vast majority of the public at the ballot box and should be consigned to the rubbish bin of history," she added.

Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady said: "I utterly condemn these attacks and wish those injured a full and speedy recovery."

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said he was concerned that guns are still being used on the streets.

"Most people like to believe this type of behaviour was relegated to the past, but unfortunately it was not," he added.

The shootings and beatings are carried out by terror groups on so-called anti-social elements.

Shooting victims are usually shot in the knees, elbows, feet, ankles or thighs.

It has been a struggle for police to catch the vigilante paramilitaries carrying out the punishment attacks. Last year it emerged that just 4% of such crimes were solved in the space of five years.

The PSNI has said that it can be challenging to bring those responsible before the courts as they need evidence and the support of the injured party.

However, police have had some success in recent months. An alleged ringleader in a paramilitary-style punishment beating and four accomplices were arrested in April after a serious assault on a man and woman in Ballywalter, Co Down.

Ian David Price was badly injured after a five-man gang attacked him with hammers, screwdrivers and baseball bats. Lisa Gordon was also attacked by the gang.

The alleged gang members are currently awaiting trial.

Belfast Telegraph


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