| 0.1°C Dublin

'totally unacceptable' UDA behind hoax bomb alerts causing dozens to be evacuated from home on Christmas Eve

Close

Army bomb disposal team in Coleraine on Christmas Eve

Army bomb disposal team in Coleraine on Christmas Eve

PSNI at the scene of a bomb alert in Coleraine

PSNI at the scene of a bomb alert in Coleraine

Attack: Celtic fan Paul Fleming who was left with terrible wounds after being shot in the head

Attack: Celtic fan Paul Fleming who was left with terrible wounds after being shot in the head

/

Army bomb disposal team in Coleraine on Christmas Eve

The UDA was behind four sectarian hoax bomb alerts which brought chaos to the town of Coleraine on Christmas Eve.

One of the devices was left near the home of a close friend of Paul Fleming who luckily survived a murder bid six weeks ago when the UDA shot him in the head.

The orchestrated Christmas Eve campaign brought misery to the home of dozens of people after the terror group targeted a number of nationalists in the mainly Protestant town.

Close

Miracle escape: Paul Fleming following surgery after he was shot in the head – he was millimetres from being killed

Miracle escape: Paul Fleming following surgery after he was shot in the head – he was millimetres from being killed

Miracle escape: Paul Fleming following surgery after he was shot in the head – he was millimetres from being killed

And we can reveal the campaign was a warning from the loyalist paramilitary group that they are capable of escalating sectarian tensions in north Antrim.

Earlier this month we revealed how a number of Protestants had been targeted by republican gangs in Coleraine in the aftermath of the sectarian shooting of Paul Fleming.

Dealer

The son of a well-known republican drug dealer had been blamed for an attack on the home of a Protestant man whose windows were smashed and car damaged.

One of the fake bomb devices was left close to their home, we can reveal.

The PSNI had to evacuate dozens of people from their homes during the early hours of Thursday morning and a senior officer described the actions of the people who caused the disruption as “totally unacceptable”.

Most of the attacks were in the Heights area where tensions were already running high following the shooting of Paul Fleming.

His best friend was one of those who had a device left at his property in Kylemore Road.

In nearby Hazekbank Road, the bomb squad were called to the property of a relative of murdered community worker Kevin McDaid.

The 49-year-old died after he was attacked outside his home in May 2009 in what a judge described as an ugly sectarian incident.

The brutal attack was carried out by a group of loyalists connected to the UDA and 13 people were convicted as a result of the investigation.

We reported earlier this month that fears were mounting of further sectarian attacks in Coleraine after graffiti supporting the New IRA appeared close to the scene of the attack on 36-year-old Fleming.

The wording of the graffiti warned ‘Loyalist Death Squads’ to ‘Beware’ and appeared near the Heights area.

In Hillcrest Avenue, yards from where Mr Fleming was shot, a man was also targeted. There was another incident at Ashbourne Park off the Greenhall Highway where weapons believed to have been used in the Fleming attack were recently recovered.

The UDA in Coleraine has been the most active of all brigades and it appears they are ready to up the ante.

The devices brought turmoil as shoppers tried to get to town for last-minute gifts.

“The UDA laid down a marker after a number of Protestants were told to leave a nationalist area of Coleraine,” said a source.

“They’ve already tried to murder one man and after the republican graffiti went up the UDA decided to take action to let everyone know they are still in charge of Coleraine.”

The police were damning in their response to the disruption as they appealed for information following the report of four suspicious objects in Hazelbank Road, Hillcrest Avenue, Kylemore Road and Ashbourne Park areas.

All four objects were examined by ATO, who said they were hoaxes.

Detective Inspector McKenna said: “Security alerts cause disruption and frustration to the community and on what should be an exciting and joyous time for families it has had an even deeper effect on those who have had to leave their homes in the early hours of this morning.

“I am disgusted by the cowardly actions of those who placed these hoax devices and who made the deliberate decision to disrupt our community in this festive season.

Excited

“Today is Christmas Eve, a day when people are making the final arrangements for Christmas day; a day when children are excited about the thought of Santa Claus coming to deliver their presents.

"However, whoever placed these hoax devices did not care about the upset and inconvenience they would cause. They have no thought for anyone other than themselves.

“Their actions are totally unacceptable.

“We share the public’s anger and frustration when incidents like this happen, but our overriding priority will always be the safety of everyone in the community.

“It is also important to remember that when we deal with security alerts, police resources can also be drawn from other calls.

“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone observed any suspicious activity in these areas or anyone who may have captured any suspicious person/persons in the area on their dash cam to call our detectives at Coleraine on 101.”

Paul Fleming’s family told us the only motive they could think of for the brutal attack on him was the fact he supports Celtic.

He underwent extensive surgery on the shotgun wound which he was told would have killed him had it been a quarter of a millimetre either side.

Coleraine is now holding its breath, waiting to see what happens next as fears of further attacks mount.

  • steven.moore@sundayworld.com


Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World


Privacy