27/08/2008

Craigavon Violence Escalates

The price for speaking out against violence on the streets has been highlighted with an attack on an SDLP Assembly Member.

Stones were thrown at Dolores Kelly after she spoke out against the violence: "I had been on the news condemning the attacks on police officers," she said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that it was specifically me who was attacked and targeted because they waited until I had walked away until I came under attack."

Mrs Kelly's car windscreen was smashed and she suffered a minor leg injury.

She was speaking after earlier violence when cars were hijacked and burned and a blast bomb was thrown at police responding to a telephoned security alert in a nationalist area of Craigavon.

The NI Policing Board Member was targeted by a gang of stone-throwing youths in Lurgan as she was returning to her car following a meeting with the local Parish Priest on graveyard vandalism,

Mrs Kelly said that, despite the damage to her car, and the injury suffered, no one would stop her speaking out against attacks on the police.

Later, things escalated further with dissident republicans being blamed for a gun attack on a police patrol in Craigavon.

Four to five shots were heard after the patrol saw a man in a crouching position aiming at them with a "long-barrelled weapon", police said.

No one was injured in the attack in the Brownlow Road area, which happened shortly before 8pm on Tuesday.

In response, the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board condemned the gun attack on the police in Craigavon; and those behind earlier rioting in the Tullygally and Drumbeg areas.
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He said: "Once again the police have come under attack on a number of fronts and it is fortunate that no one has been injured during this violence. This latest gun attack is another sinister development."

Sir Desmond said: "This was a despicable attack and it is fortunate that Dolores escaped without serious injury. This attack on a public representative working on behalf of the local community must be condemned in the strongest possible terms; and I would call on anyone with information on any of these incidents to provide it to the police."

Additionally, Sinn Féin Assembly Member for Upper Bann John O'Dowd called on those responsible for the series of violent incidents in the Craigavon area to "stop their activities" and allow the area to return to normal.

Mr O'Dowd said: "There have been a number of hijackings and attacks on both PSNI and local residents in the Craigavon area.

"There have been unconfirmed reports of a number of shots being fired. The people behind these incidents are anti-social and anti-community.

"If any of the republican micro groups are part of any of these incidents then they should publicly accept responsibility and explain how hijacking local people's cars and disrupting everyday life in the community advances one iota the goal of Irish reunification.

"I would call on those behind (these) incidents in Craigavon to reflect on the damage caused to the local area by their actions and desist from should activity in the future."

The DUP MP for the area David Simpson also condemned the trouble: "It is disgraceful. It seems there are those within republicanism, whatever strain, who are hell-bent on shedding the blood of police officers," he said.

He said he believed that trouble earlier on Tuesday was orchestrated "to lure the police officers into that area to get a go at them".

In the afternoon, at least one blast bomb, as well as bottles, stones and petrol bombs were thrown at police in the town investigating a security alert.

(BMcC)

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