Politicians and churchmen also condemned the killing of Teresa Clinton, whose husband, Jim, was a Sinn Fein council candidate. The Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility, saying Mr Clinton was their intended target.
The loyalist gang heaved a breeze block through the living-room window of the Clintons' home in the Lower Ormeau district, then sprayed the room with bullets, killing Mrs Clinton. A local community worker said the breeze block had brought down curtains, giving the gunman a clear view into the room. He added: 'He could see exactly who was being shot. Teresa was putting coal on to the fire in clear view of the gunman. This was no mistake, it was a deliberate killing of an innocent Catholic.'
Mrs Clinton, who had two young children, was described as a quiet woman who was involved in community activity in the area but was not interested in politics.
Sinn Fein councillors yesterday staged a picket at Belfast city hall, protesting against a ruling that those with Sinn Fein associations are not eligible for protection measures.
The killing was the latest in an upsurge of violence over the last ten days. During that period, a Protestant woman was battered to death and shot in a loyalist club, then one of her alleged killers was shot dead by a loyalist group. In another attack, a Catholic man and his son were shot in their north Belfast home. And five people were injured when the IRA fired on an RUC car in Armagh on Thursday.