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'More than a dozen' tourists mugged near Belfast's International Wall

Several hundred people attended a rally against anti-social behaviour in the lower Falls area of west Belfast. Picture by Declan Roughan

MORE than a dozen tourists have been mugged close to west Belfast's 'International Wall' in recent months, it has been claimed.

Last week a would-be street robber was photographed trying to take a French visitor's camera gear near the popular tourist attraction.

Although the attempted theft on Albert Street in the lower Falls area was captured on camera, no-one has yet been arrested.

Speaking before a rally last night in protest at anti-social behaviour, Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann said visitors viewing the murals on the Falls Road are increasingly being targeted.

"I think altogether there have been 14 tourists that have been mugged," he said.

Several hundred people attended the rally, organised by the Falls Residents' Association, outside the Maureen Sheehan community centre on Albert Street.

Mr McCann said just yards away was a "favourite spot to launch attacks on tourists, death driving, burglary, robbery and generally terrorising innocent people".

"There still are a fair amount of elderly people who live in the area and many of them are terrified."

He added: "The serious increase in drugs - heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs - makes it more difficult and dangerous for people who live here."

Gerard Diver, chairman of the Falls Residents' Association, said recent attacks included a burglary and the theft of a family's car which was later found burnt out.

A pre-school and primary school have also been targeted.

"There has been a spike in break-ins and death driving and attacks on the community in general," he said.

"People have suffered here for years - the legacy of the Troubles, from the RUC and loyalist paramilitaries - now ones who are living within their own community are terrorising them. They've just had enough."

He said most of those believed to be involved are from the area, although some also come from outside the lower Falls.

"Their general interest is being a 'hood' and terrorising people," he said.

"The PSNI have a responsibility and also the judicial system has a responsibility.

"There is a turnstile judicial system where they go in and they're back out again."

Gerry McConville, from the Falls Community Council, told the rally that people in the area had to withstand a "persistent campaign of intimidation from those hell-bent on destroying this proud community".

He said the rally was called to "send a clear message" to those involved in the attacks that "you have no place in this community".

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