The INLA shot a serial criminal four times after a dispute with his drug dealing brother turned violent.
Eamon Toner (43), was blasted in the legs by two masked men who forced their way into his flat off the Springfield Road in west Belfast. A young teenage girl who was in the property at the time looked on in terror.
Republican sources told Sunday Life the INLA was responsible and the shooting was a fall-out from a row involving Toner’s younger brother Gareth Marron. The 30-year-old is a convicted cannabis dealer who was forced to flee west Belfast earlier this year when he was confronted by members of the terror gang.
Marron told friends he was being extorted by the INLA, while the republicans later claimed they were warning him to stop drug dealing.
Toner, who has a volatile reputation and has a conviction for storing a dissident handgun and ammo, showed up during the meeting and fought with one of the INLA members.
Later he was warned to leave Belfast or risk being shot. To drive the message home an INLA gang went looking for him and pulled a gun on a female associate.
This infuriated a paranoid Toner who hid out for several months in the Newtownabbey area with a girlfriend, but has increasingly been seen on his old Springfield Road stomping ground.
Sources say that last Monday night he visited the Malcolmson Street wake house of his pal Noel Donnelly, a convicted sex offender, who died suddenly on June 9.
The 44-year-old, a former member of the Official Republican Movement, survived an ONH (Oglaigh na hEireann) murder bid in 2014 following his conviction for exposing himself to a schoolgirl.
After paying his respects, Toner foolishly returned to his old flat on Millennium Way where he was ambushed by the INLA. Two gunmen dragged him outside and shot him four times in the legs in front of a young relative.
The gun attack victim was taken to the nearby Royal Victoria Hospital and underwent surgery the following day.
Sources say Toner was “lucky” not to have been murdered by the INLA, which has been behind several gun attacks in the area.
Onlookers heard him scream for mercy, shouting “please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me” as he was forced to the ground.
Three years ago, Decky Collins (33), was shot in the back and leg during a failed INLA murder bid just yards away. After recovering in hospital Collins fled Belfast.
Eamon Toner is also understood to be preparing to quit the city following his kneecapping by the INLA. Described as a “rocket” by neighbours on the Springfield Road he has dozens of criminal convictions, with many for violence.
In 2013, Toner had a five-year prison sentence suspended for three years for storing a dissident republican handgun and 85 bullets.
The court accepted that he was forced to keep the haul following a fight with a well-known republican. Toner was told that he would be killed if he refused to comply with the order.
The thug was back in court last December to be put on probation for a road-rage incident during which he punched another motorist and smashed his windscreen.
During the assault, which occurred in Crossgar, Co Down, he screamed at his victim “I’m going to take the head of you.”
Toner’s younger brother Gareth Marron was given a suspended prison sentence in 2015 for possessing cannabis with intent to supply. He told a court that he was selling the drugs to feed his own addiction and pay-off debts. Marron is understood to now be living at a secret address on the north-coast.
The INLA, which threatened the brothers, has been accused by police of taxing drug dealers in republican estates in Belfast and Derry. The offices of its IRSP political wing have also been raided by cops as part of an anti-terror probe.
Appealing for information about the Eamon Toner shooting, the PSNI’s Detective Inspector Dane said: “This was a brutal attack for which there is no justification. There is no place for attacks such as this in our society.
“This was a built-up residential area in daylight, with this barbaric attack showing a complete disregard for the local community. The bullets could have strayed at any moment and hit someone passing by, especially with children present in the area at the time.”