Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Police closing in on vicious gang

By Ciaran McGuigan

The net was yesterday closing on the gang of vicious thugs who launched a cut-throat attack on drinkers in a Belfast city centre bar.

Cops hunting the bloodthirsty gang that left Belfast man Hugh McNally fighting for his life, and left several others badly injured, last Saturday are believed to have identified a number of the ringleaders.

According to senior security sources, they were set to be targeted in a series of weekend swoops across greater Belfast by detectives.

Alongside the swoops, police continue to probe links between the notorious Section F hooligans linked to Linfield and football thugs following Leeds United and Chelsea in relation to the attack.

Sunday Life understands that detectives in Belfast have asked for help from cops in England to identify suspected English football hooligans who may have been involved in the horrific attack on Cosgrave's Bar.

Over the last week cops have been pouring over CCTV footage shot across Belfast showing the gang move from McHugh's Bar, where they had been drinking, towards Castle Street where they tried to force their way into the bar full of Celtic fans who had been watching the Old Firm derby.

Sunday Life understands that detectives do not believe that most of the gang had been at the Linfield versus Cliftonville Irish Cup semi-final clash at the Oval that coincided with the televised Old Firm match.

However, eyewitnesses have told how they were wearing Linfield shirts and scarves under predominantly dark clothing.

And they were shouting slogans identifying them with the notorious Section F hooligan firm that follows the Windsor Park club.

Loyalist sources have told Sunday Life that the brutal attack launched by the gang had been planned over a period of time by thugs based in Belfast.

The infamous Section F gang believed to have been involved is led by a hardened football thug from the Dunmurry area.

According to sources, this man organises regular meets with hooligans from both the notorious Chelsea Headhunters gang and from the Service Crew Casuals, who follow Leeds Utd.

According to our sources, the English-based thugs are regular visitors to Ulster's football grounds.

They view Northern Ireland as a hooligans' playground where they are free from football banning orders that can be handed out in the rest of the UK.

Said one source: "These thugs are regular visitors to Ulster, and their friends from Seymour Hill are regular return visitors to Leeds and London.

"They go about with the cover of football, but their real interests are racism and sectarianism, not football.

"They call themselves 'loyalists', but they are just violent, racist thugs. What happened last Saturday has been brewing for a long time.

"And it won't be the last time that the same individuals will be involved in violent attacks.

"They are over here all the time with their Belfast connections setting up regular fights with other gangs."

Linfield and its fans last week distanced themselves from the hardcore bigots that launched the bitter sectarian attack in their name.

Said one club source: "All decent Bluemen condemn last Saturday's attack unreservedly, wish the injured man a speedy recovery, and honestly believe that the attack had nothing to do with match-going supporters.

"The assailants weren't even at the match with Cliftonville.

"Everyone should look closely at our Windsor Roar and True Blues anti-sectarianism campaign, and the cross-community make up of the playing staff throughout the various teams at Linfield."

Belfast Telegraph

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