Belfast militants kill Protestant teen standing with Catholic friends, vow more bloodshed
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) – Gunmen trying to stir up hatred with Northern Ireland’s Catholic community promised more bloodshed Monday after killing a Protestant teen-ager standing with his Catholic friends.
Police and politicians said Gavin Brett’s killers wrongly assumed the 18-year-old, like the others outside a sports club late Sunday, was Catholic.
Such killings were routine in Northern Ireland before paramilitary cease-fires took root in the mid-1990s. Now, with Protestant hostility to Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord flaring, fears are growing that such random acts of terrorism might again become a regular part of life.
An extremist anti-Catholic gang, the Red Hand Defenders, claimed responsibility for the attack. They offered no apology for killing one of their community’s own and warned that their terror campaign would continue, saying: ”God save Ulster.”
”Our campaign will increase in ferocity in the coming weeks, months and days because of the existing denial of civil rights for Protestants,” the shadowy group warned in a brief statement.
Brett died at the start of a week when Britain and Ireland are supposed to unveil a long-awaited plan to salvage key parts of the peace pact. They expect to publish a joint blueprint Wednesday for promoting Irish Republican Army disarmament and sustaining the province’s joint Catholic-Protestant government, which faces suspension or outright collapse by Aug. 12.
The victim’s father, Michael, a paramedic frequently called to handle the bloody aftermath of terrorist attacks, struggled to save his eldest son, who was on his way home after a night partying with Catholic friends.
”Michael has helped countless people throughout the troubles regardless of who they are and regardless of what creed they are,” said a brother, Peter Brett.
”But these godfathers are demon-possessed, and along with the Jezebel mothers who harbor them, they are the ones who are going to pay.”
The slaying, the second claimed this month by the Red Hand Defenders, raised accusations that the group is a cover name invented by renegade members of Northern Ireland’s biggest outlawed Protestant group, the Ulster Defense Association.
The UDA is supposed to be observing a cease-fire in support of the Good Friday pact, but this month announced it no longer supported the deal though it allowed all of its imprisoned members to walk free.
Leaders of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army-linked party rooted in hard-line Catholic areas, said they were willing to meet UDA commanders as a part of wider efforts to defuse street hostilities.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams accused the UDA of attacking vulnerable Catholic homes, particularly in north Belfast, including the past three nights. Riot police fended off both Protestant and Catholic mobs in polarized parts of the city for a third straight night Sunday. No serious injuries were reported.
Police have also blamed UDA members for throwing some 140 pipe bombs and homemade grenades at British security forces and Catholic properties this year. So far, there have been no deaths blamed on this campaign of intimidation.
Adams acknowledged that Catholics had attacked Protestant homes in retaliation, but denied it was organized by the IRA as Protestants allege.
”People are saying if the IRA carried out 140 bomb attacks, it would be all over the world,” Adams said.
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