Man killed and weapons seized in Belfast

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The Independent Online

A man with links to a dissident Republican group was shot dead as he sat in a parked car in west Belfast today.

A man with links to a dissident Republican group was shot dead as he sat in a parked car in west Belfast today.

Father-of-three Joseph O'Connor, 26, was hit several times in the head at close range in Whitecliff Parade.

He was in the front passenger seat of a white Peugeot when two hooded men approached on foot and opened fire. The driver was uninjured.

The murder happened in the strongly Republican Ballymurphy area.

Police say Mr O'Connor, who minutes earlier had left his mother's house, had connections with a Republican group.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble condemned the shooting.

He called on RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan to state who he thought was responsible.

Mr Trimble said: "I understand that a police operation is still ongoing and there may very well be further developments, but what I think was the question we will all ask is who is responsible for this murder?

"We also recall that there have been two other murders recently in Dunmurry and in Magherafelt. Now I recall with regard to the first one, the Chief Constable made a statement which said there was some intelligence indications of Republican involvement but that investigations were proceeding.

"I think what society will want to hear from Ronnie Flanagan, from the Chief Constable, is a clear statement of the police view of responsibility for all these killings."

Mr Trimble added that he hoped the RUC would make it very clear very soon which paramilitary organisation he believed was responsible for the shootings.

Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Sean McKnight said people in the area were "shocked and traumatised" by the killing.

He said he did not know who was responsible for the murder but it came after a period of raised tensions in the area.

The man was gunned down outside the same house where his grandfather was shot dead about 13 years ago.

Retired taxi driver Francisco Notarantonio, 66, was in bed when a lone gunman burst into the room.

Today's killing was not believed by the RUC to be sectarian but to be as a result of a dispute within dissident republicanism.

In an unrelated incident, detectives arrested a number of people after a grenade launcher and warheads were seized on the outskirts of the city.

RUC officers swooped on a house in Glenbawn Court, a nationalist district of Dunmurry.

They said other items were also found.

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