Fears of bloodshed as dissidents vow to track down tiger kidnappers
It is feared dissident republicans will take action against a criminal gang who abducted a man and woman from north Belfast and demanded a £100,000 ransom for their safe return.
The woman and her stepfather were kidnapped from a house in the Lansdowne Road area on Sunday evening after four masked men forced their way into their home and held them at gunpoint.
The gang claimed to be from the west Belfast INLA, however they have since been identified locally as a criminal gang led by a man with a previous conviction for tiger kidnapping and extortion.
During the nightmare two hour ordeal the attackers ransacked the property, demanded money and assaulted the man.
The two victims were then loaded into separate vehicles and driven to Ardoyne in north Belfast while a ransom demand of £100,000 was made to a businessman relative.
The kidnapped man, who had been left in the back of a white Ford Transit van, managed to free himself and raise the alarm.
The woman was discovered a short time later after a search of the area by relatives who heard her screams. She was found bound with cable ties in the the back of a red Mercedes SUV, also left in Ardoyne.
Police were not alerted to the kidnapping until 11.15pm, by which time both victims had already been freed and no money had been paid to the gang.
The man suffered non life-threatening injuries and the woman was physically unharmed but was severally traumatised by her ordeal.
There was no one at at the family's north Belfast home when the Irish News called on Tuesday. The property is fitted with security cameras.
All four members of the gang are now under death threat from dissident republicans, with detectives investigating the robbery under pressure to arrest the suspects before they are subject to vigilante attack.
Saoradh, who are widely believed to have links to the New IRA, posted on Facebook "Republicans will not tolerate such activity in these areas. Especially by those attempting to use republicanism as a false flag of convenience for their nefarious activities".
The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), the political wing of the INLA, distanced themselves from the kidnapping.
The IRSP said they were able to confirm to a relative of the family "that they had absolutely zero involvement in these criminal actions, and automatically began working and co-operating directly with the family.
"What happened on Sunday is the actions of selfish criminals who are not welcome in our communities and certainly not welcome amongst the republican socialist community.
"We will continue to work with the affected family and entire north Belfast community to ensure that these criminals are held accountable for their actions".
Police made a further appeal for information on yesterday. Detective Inspector Michael McDonnell asking anyone who was driving in the Lansdowne Road, Taunton Avenue area between 9pm and 11.30pm on Sunday and who has recorded dashcam footage, to contact detectives urgently at Musgrave police station on 101, quoting reference number 2004 15/12/19.
"Any information, no matter how small or seemingly irrelevant, could potentially be of great significance and help us to identify the criminals responsible and put them before the courts", he added.