Catholic teenager killed by loyalists raises fears

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The sectarian assassination of a Catholic teenager in County Antrim has heightened tensions and raised fears of a surge of loyalist violence in the run-up to the contentious climax of the marching season.

Ciaran Cummings, 19, was waiting for a lift to work near a roundabout in the town of Antrim when he was approached by two men on a motorcycle. He was shot several times and died at the scene.

A person claiming to be from the Red Hand Defenders later made a telephone call saying the dissident loyalist paramilitary group carried out the shooting. The name has been used by various organisations in the past.

Father John Murray, who visited the Cummings family, said: "They're struggling with the bad news and struggling with life and struggling with their pain ­ full of pain and full of grief."

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, John Reid, condemned the killing and said: "We want all paramilitary weapons put beyond use and I hope this acts as a spur.

Pat Doherty, Sinn Fein vice-president, accused the former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble of increasing tensions in the province by walking away from his post.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan said police believed paramilitaries were involved in the killing of Mr Cummings because it was such a "well organised and coolly carried out attack".