23 January 2006

Gunman targets activist at match


Billy Leonard said the player was frightened by the experience

A Sinn Fein activist was threatened at gunpoint as he played football in County Londonderry, the party has said.

A man wearing a balaclava and carrying a handgun approached the player and threatened him at the start of a match at Ballysally, near Coleraine.

The player flagged down a car and managed to escape. The incident happened at about 1100 GMT on Saturday.

Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard said it was not clear if it had been a scare tactic or a potential attack.

"It is hard to say from initial reports if this was an elaborate scare tactic or if a real attack was avoided by the quick thinking of our activist who fled the scene," he said.

"The attacker definitely asked for the person by name and was approaching him across the pitch pointing the weapon.

"Whatever the motivation, there are guns in loyalist areas and are being targeted at one of our activists.

"The message has got to be given loud and clear. There is no place for this in Coleraine."

The police have appealed for witnesses to the incident.

The gunman is believed to be in his 20s, about 5ft 10ins tall and was wearing black clothing.

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