Lurgan gangs go on hijack spree

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The Independent Online
MASKED GANGS hijacked vehicles and a bus was set on fire as more trouble broke out yesterday in Lurgan, Co Armagh, following last week's car bomb murder of the human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.

The gangs seized vehicles in the nationalist Kilwilkie estate less than half a mile from where the solicitor was killed by dissident loyalists, who planted a booby-trap bomb under her car on Monday.

A Post Office van, a tractor, two vans and a lorry were hijacked in the estate by gangs of up to a dozen at a time. A bus was also set on fire at Lake Street railway crossing in the town.

The hijacking appeared to be an attempt to lure the RUC into the estate to subject them to further petrol bomb attacks.

But a spokesman for the force said they were not going in. They had set up check-points around Kilwilkie and advised motorists not to enter.

Trouble spilled over as a prominent anti-violence campaigner blamed the IRA for an attempted bomb attack on his Belfast home. Vincent McKenna, spokes-man for the human rights group Families Against Intimidation and Terror, discovered the device wired to an outside door of his house at Haypark Avenue off the Ormeau Road.

The area was evacuated and security forces carried out a controlled explosion to make the device safe before taking it away for forensic examination.

"I've been threatened twice in the past two weeks but it will not stop me speaking out against violence," said Mr McKenna, who is the public voice of FAIT in its repeated highlighting and condemnation of continuing IRA and loyalist paramilitary beatings, punishment shootings and expulsions.

A one-time member of the IRA who has become one of its most outspoken critics, Mr McKenna has long said he is on the IRA hit-list. He has previously received threats, beatings and a letter bomb, and had the windows of his home smashed.