06 March 2006

Loyalist group admits taxi attack

BBC

The loyalist Red Hand Defenders has said it threatened a taxi driver at gunpoint in north Belfast.

It happened after the driver had picked up four men on the Crumlin Road at about 2230 GMT on Saturday.

It is believed the weapon jammed when one of the men placed a gun to the back of his head and tried to fire it.

A man who said he was from the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the UDA and LVF, said it carried out the attack in a call to a newspaper on Sunday night.

The incident happened after the driver had picked up four men in the Crumlin Road area and drove them to Ligoniel.

A struggle broke out after the gun was placed at the driver's head and he managed to run from the car.

The men then fled from the scene. It is thought they ran down an alleyway at the side of the nearby McKenna's pub.

North Belfast MP, the DUP's Nigel Dodds, said the attack was "vile" and "utterly abhorrent".

"The claim by the Red Hand Defenders that they carried out the attack on a taxi driver at the weekend is an extremely worrying and sinister development," Mr Dodds said.

Sinn Fein councillor Caral Ni Chuilin said the man was lucky to have escaped unharmed.

SDLP assembly member for North Belfast Alban Maginness said it was a terrible ordeal for the man.

Police have appealed for anyone with information about the incident to contact them.

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