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gun attacks Paramilitary Crime Task Force called in to investigate 'sudden escalation' of violence in Coleraine, Co Antrim

PCTF involvement comes after spate of attacks in recent months in north Antrim

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The scene where a 61-year-old woman was shot in Coleraine in October

The scene where a 61-year-old woman was shot in Coleraine in October

The scene where a 61-year-old woman was shot in Coleraine in October

The Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) has been called into Coleraine to deal with the ongoing situation following a series of shooting incidents in recent months in what has been described as a "significant escalation" of violence.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Superintendent Ian Magee of the PSNI said the PCTF will also be investigating incidents which took place in Bushmills, Dungiven and Rasharkin and surrounding districts.

There were a total of 14 shooting incidents in the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council area in 2020 - the second highest number of incidents in Northern Ireland with Belfast having the highest (16).

The Sunday World has reported on several incidents this year and last year in which people have been shot and targeted in gun attacks in the Coleraine area of Co Antrim.

In October, a 61-year-old woman was shot in the head when shots were fired at the front and rear of her house in the Bushmills Road area of the town.

Two men were later arrested following the attack.

Last November, a 36-year-old man, Paul Fleming, was shot in the head by the UDA.

The victim claimed he was targeted because he is a Celtic fan.

Mr Fleming later learned that had the shotgun wound to his head been even a quarter of a millimetre to either side it would have killed him.

Around the same time, a brick was thrown through the window of a Protestant man in the Heights area by republicans.

The spate of attacks raised fears that a sectarian battle was brewing in the town.

Earlier this month shots were fired at a house in the Dundooan Park area. There were two people in the house of the time but neither were injured.

Just days before the incident, a shot was fired at a house in Laburnum Place.

Two women and a man were in the house at the time and were physically uninjured, though the police say they were left "shocked and distressed".

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PSNI Chief Inspector Ian Magee

PSNI Chief Inspector Ian Magee

PSNI Chief Inspector Ian Magee

Superintendent Magee said: "I'm committed to protect the community from all types of violence. What I need the community to do is set aside any assumptions that you might have around the people carrying out the attacks, but also the victims of the shootings and consider the people behind the guns.

"Guns and bullets are unpredictable and all you need is one ricochet to hit someone in the vicinity."

Independent MLA Claire Sugden, who formerly served as justice minister, said that "in most cases it is criminal activity, it's control, it's drugs, it's intimidation.

"Communities are being kept down by this type of behaviour and I think the executive needs to try to do more to give them confidence and support, so this type of activity can no longer take place."

She also addressed the fears that members of the public may have in coming forward to give information to the police about criminal gangs who are making people's lives miserable in the Coleraine area.

She said: "People are scared, they are intimidated, it's the nature of these gangs and what they do.

"Again what we have to do is say to the government: ‘You need to give confidence back to these communities'."

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