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Gun attack on contractor van at Co Fermanagh hotel

The cordoned off Carlton Hotel in Belleek where the shooting took place

A CROSS-border search is under way for a masked gang who opened fire at a Co Fermanagh hotel undergoing renovation.

Staff at the Carlton Hotel in Belleek were threatened before one shot was fired into a van belonging to a contractor working at the premises on Tuesday.

Police said four armed men wearing balaclavas arrived at the premises on Main Street shortly before 9.30am and fired one shot into the van. No one was injured.

It is understood the vehicle belonged to a cleaning company carrying out work at the hotel, which is due to re-open following a three-year closure.

It is understood a rifle was used in the shooting and the masked men were also armed with a small machine gun.

Police arrived at the scene by road and by Lough Erne to seal off the area, which is around 60 metres from the Donegal border.

Police said the gang fled in the direction of the border and officers were working with Gardai to trace their movements.

A vehicle was later found burnt out in the nearby village of Garrison.

PSNI Detective Inspector Trevor Stevenson said: "There was no-one in the van at the time and no-one sustained any injuries during the incident.

"The men are all described as wearing dark coloured overalls with white stripes and balaclavas. The men made off in a black coloured Ford Escort car in the direction of the border.

"A car matching the description was discovered on fire a short time later in the Derrynacross Road area of Garrison, where it is believed that the four males then left in a second unknown vehicle."

Workers from the cleaning company are believed to have been working at the hotel for the past few days ahead if the re-opening before Christmas.

The three-star hotel has been closed since January 2013 after going into administration.

It was bought for £300,000 in March 2013 and was expected to re-open for the G8 Summit in June of that year.

But it was targeted in a petrol bomb attack in May 2013.

However, just last month new owner Sam Morrison, who runs one of Northern Ireland’s largest property firms, Corbo, announced he hoped to re-open the 35-bedroom hotel in time for Christmas.

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott said he was "shocked" by the attack.

"Belleek is a quiet Fermanagh border village and this incident will have come as a complete shock to the local community," he said.

"It is a reminder that we are still plagued by those who are intent on murder, attempted murder and disruption and of dark days which we all want to put behind us."

SDLP councillor John Coyle condemned "this senseless act of violence".

"Firearms have no place in our society and this is totally unacceptable," he said.

"Belleek is my home village and along with many others have been working to make sure it is seen as a warm welcoming and vibrant village and a safe place to come to."

Sinn Féin councillor John Feeley said: "News that a shot was fired into a van belonging to a contractor who was working at the hotel and threats shouted to staff is worrying.

"There can be no place for these type of incidents in our society. Thankfully, no-one was injured."

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