Loyalist gunmen kill Catholic man at home

Loyalist gunmen last night shot dead a Catholic man in his north Belfast home, narrowly missing his five-year-old daughter who was sitting on his knee when he was killed. Several men broke down the back door of the house and rushed into the living room, where members of the family were preparing for Christmas. They pumped bullets into his chest, killing him almost immediately. He was named locally as Martin Lavery, 40.

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the illegal Ulster Volunteer Force, which alleged Mr Lavery was an active member of the IRA - a claim denied by his family. Local people said his brother was a former Sinn Fein councillor. A car used in the attack had been hijacked earlier.

A bomb exploded outside a bank in central Belfast last night, soon after an IRA warning of three devices outside banks in the area. There were no casualties and damage was minimal.