Paramilitary loyalists kept up their campaign of violence in the Co Antrim resort of Ballycastle, planting pipe-bombs in a hotel and a bar on Wendesday while crowds of holidaymakers attended the traditional Auld Lammas Fair.
On Tuesday, they left a large device in a car in Ballycastle, with flammable material that police said could have produced a fireball in the streets. The bomb was spotted by an RUC constable on foot patrol.
An RUC Superintendent, John Bustard, said: "Ruthless individuals have once again sought to inflict carnage. The public should be under no illusion as to the reckless and indiscriminate nature of these attacks; devices were concealed in such a way as to make their detection extremely difficult."
Responsibility for the bomb in the car was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a name used on occasion by two loyalist groupings, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Loyalist Volunteer Force. The same name was used after an attack on a Catholic home in Ballynahinch, Co Down.
The Ballycastle attacks have caused puzzlement because the bombs could have been expected to harm Protestants as well as Catholics. The loyalist bombers are so sectarian that they will attack almost any Catholic target, but they try to avoid hurting Protestants.
Although Ballycastle is mainly Catholic, the town draws tens of thousands of both Protestants and Catholics, to its annual fair. The degree of recklessness, rarely seen recently, has roused fears more attacks could result in heavy casualties.
The UDA is the prime suspect for most of the present violence. Although technically on ceasefire, it is seen as almost entirely detached from the peace process. Members in some areas are routinely involved in violence, often using pipebombs.
In the Ballynahinch attack, a Catholic couple and their four children escaped injury. The house's owner said: "The next-door neighbour in February got a pipebomb at her house and two doors up got one at her house ... Everyone in Ballynahinch knows it's the UDA. They know who's doing it. It's absolutely crazy. They aren't going to be happy until they kill a Catholic any Catholic."
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