Police hold three over shooting of girl by feuding loyalists

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The Independent Online

Three men were being questioned by police last night over the shooting of an 11-year-old girl in the latest outbreak of loyalist paramilitary feuding in Northern Ireland.

Three men were being questioned by police last night over the shooting of an 11-year-old girl in the latest outbreak of loyalist paramilitary feuding in Northern Ireland.

Charlene Daly was said to be "lucky to be alive" after being hit by a bullet that entered her back below the left shoulder blade, leaving her with broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

The shooting on Monday night came despite increasing calls from community workers and politicians for a ceasefire in the feud between the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Freedom Fighters, which left three men dead last week in west Belfast.

Malcolm Brown, a consultant surgeon who is treating the injured girl, said: "Obviously she was very distressed having received this type of injury. But she is a surprisingly resilient young lady who received her treatment with great stoicism. She is very lucky to be alive. The bullet is lodged in soft tissue and it would cause more damage to try and retrieve it."

Charlene was injured when a gunman, assumed to be from the UVF, machine-gunned a house in Coleraine, Co Londonderry. Nineteen bullets struck the house, which is in a estate where there has been previous violent feuding.

A family friend, Billy McFarlane, said: "This just wasn't an attempt to scare somebody, it was an attempt to take out the complete family. The gunmen - and they were obviously local people - knew the exact layout of the house and they fired head-high, riddling the place. It was attempted mass murder."

William Ross, the Ulster Unionist MP for East Londonderry, said: "Heaven knows where and when this absolute madness, this butchery, is all going to end."

Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said he was outraged by the "insane" shooting. He added: "I have been appalled by this shooting and the level to which these callous thugs are prepared to stoop."

John White, of the Ulster Democratic Party, the political wing of the UFF, said he feared the feud could spread across Northern Ireland. "A young girl has almost lost her life," he said. "The main groups should call a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities, even for a short time, to allow talks at various levels to take place."

Others calling for an end to the violence included leaders of the Orange Order, the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party and local traders.

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