13 August 2005

LVF targets gun shop owners

Daily Ireland

Ciarán Barnes

The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) is targeting gun shop owners throughout the North, Daily Ireland has learned.
The paramilitary organisation, which is involved in a bitter feud with the rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), is desperate for weapons and is also targeting owners of legally-held guns in a bid to boost its armoury.
Earlier in the year, the leader of the LVF in north Belfast stole six legally-held weapons from a house in the Finaghy area of south Belfast.
Now gun shop owners believe the paramilitary organisation has turned its attention to them.
One store manager who spoke to Daily Ireland but was too frightened to be indentified said he had been warned by a police officer about the LVF threat.
However, the PSNI has denied contacting him.
He said: “I don’t know why the police are denying it but an officer told me that gun shop owners are being targeted by the LVF.
“He said the LVF was trying to get its hands on weapons and the easiest way to do this was to take legally-held weapons from gun shops.
“I am having to be extra-conscious about my security.”
During the LVF weapons theft at Finaghy, a babysitter and children were tied up for six hours while a gang raided the house before escaping with two shotguns, three rifles and a pistol.
All of the hostages were Catholics; the babysitter’s husband was murdered in the 1990s by the Ulster Defence Association.
A second attempt by the LVF to steal legally-held weapons in north Belfast some time later resulted in one paramilitary boss being seriously injured.
Daily Ireland has learned that the LVF is being alerted to the home addresses of pistol and rifle owners by two men with strong loyalist connections who are members of a well-known gun club
The latest feud between the UVF and LVF has claimed three lives – Jameson Lockhart, Craig McCausland and Stephen Paul. All of the men were murdered by the UVF.
The LVF blinded and seriously wounded David Hanley in a north Belfast gun attack on July 11. Mr Hanley has no paramilitary connections.
There have also been numerous gun and bomb attacks and riots throughout Belfast. A number of families have also been forced to flee their homes.
The PSNI’s handling of the feud has drawn criticism from unionist politicians, loyalist leaders and the families of those murdered.
However, the PSNI has rejected this criticism, insisting its officers are doing all they can to bring the feud under control.

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