Nine quit Ulster after republican threats

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The Independent Online
NINE PEOPLE have been ordered to leave Northern Ireland or face death at the hands of republican paramilitaries, according to a report yesterday.

Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) - believed to be an IRA cover name - selected the nine, who live in Bessbrook, South Armagh. Some, including at least one woman and several parents, have fled the Bessbrook area, said the Irish News.

DAAD has been relatively inactive since carrying out a campaign against drug dealers between 1995 and 1998 in which nine men were shot dead. The Royal Ulster Constabulary is understood to have warned the nine after a letter was sent to the public housing body for Northern Ireland, the Housing Executive.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Bureau said it had spoken to three of those under threat, had moved one to safety and was moving two more. The director of the bureau, Vincent McKenna, urged the remaining six to "take the threat seriously and contact us as soon as possible". He said there was no doubt the IRA was behind the threats.

Mr McKenna said: "NIHRB calls for the Secretary of State to resign as a result of the upsurge in terrorist expulsions and human rights violations by those groups that the Secretary of State states are on ceasefire."

The RUC is understood to have warned the nine that their lives could be in danger. An RUC spokesman said the police could not discuss the security of individuals, but added it was incumbent on the force to warn individuals of any threat.

Danny Kennedy, an Ulster Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, condemned the threats and said he viewed them as "very serious and sinister". He said there was clear linkage between DAAD and the IRA and the threats "once again call into question the validity of the IRA ceasefire". Mr Kennedy said he had spoken to one woman affected by the threat who was "worried sick" and very concerned for her safety and that of her young child.

Sinn Fein dismissed the latest threats as mischief-making and nothing to do with republicans. Conor Murphy, a Sinn Fein Assembly member, said he had investigated the threats and people were "adamant that this has nothing to do with republicans".

He said that he did not believe DAAD existed in the south Armagh area and the threats were "complete fiction and probably mischief as well".

t A 16-year-old youth is recovering in hospital after being attacked in Belfast by two masked men wielding iron bars. In another incident, an RUC officer suffered head injuries when officers were attacked in west Belfast as they made an arms find.