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Loyalist paramilitaries recruiting in area where father shot in arms and legs

Loyalists linked to the UDA are thought to have beenbehind the attack on the 45-year-old man in Garvagh, Co Derry
Allison Morris, Seamus McKinney and Joanne Sweeney

LOYALIST paramilitaries are “actively recruiting” in the Co Derry area where a masked gang shot a man and threatened to shoot his teenage daughter.

SDLP East Derry MLA John Dallat said paramilitary activity “has been gathering a head of steam for some time”.

He was speaking after police said a teenager offered her piggybank money to men who forced their way into her Garvagh home.

The gang beat her father with metal bars and shot him several times in the arms and legs.

Loyalists linked to the UDA, drafted in from the Ballymoney area, are thought to be behind the attack on the 45-year-old man just before 10.30pm on Saturday.

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His daughter witnessed part of the attack. One of the gunmen chased her upstairs. She offered him her savings to leave her family alone. 

The gang then stole her phone from her to stop her ringing for help.

Mr Dallat said the recent increase in paramilitary activity in the area was “particularly dangerous and this latest, very violent, attack in front of a young child is linked to that upsurge”.

“In the past week we have seen commemorations for two of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, the Shankill bombing and Greysteel massacre,” he said.

“The last thing we want is for history to repeat itself. The PSNI really need to show that they have grip on this type of thuggish, paramilitary gangsterism. Twenty-five years after those awful attacks and there is still violent, paramilitary activity happening right here on our doorsteps.”

The 45-year-old victim is recovering in hospital. He also suffered head injuries in the attack in the Kurin Lane area. The gang tried to set fire to items in the house before they left.

Police condemned the "sickeningly vicious shooting and beating".

They said: “This attack has left this man with serious and potentially life-changing injuries and a young girl severely traumatised.

“What sort of men would think it is acceptable to subject a young girl to this level of brutality and violence? Every child has the right to feel safe and protected in their own home.

"It’s quite obvious the hypocrites who carried out this dreadful attack don’t care at all about the children in their community.

“We must all work together to bring those responsible to justice and to stop this from happening to another child."

Mr Dallat said: "This is brutality beyond belief. Not only did these gangsters mutilate the limbs of a father but they traumatised her daughter in the most cowardly of ways.

"People need to realise that paramilitaries do not protect communities but as the advertisement states, they control them. This is control beyond civilisation and needs to be stopped in its tracks."

Mr Dallat said police are aware of "the rise of a paramilitary gang trying to reassert itself through criminality" in the area.

He appealed for people to contact police.

Sinn Fein East Derry MLA Caoimhe Archibald also condemned the attack and called for information to be passed on to police.

"There is absolutely no justification for an attack like this. These actions should stop immediately and those responsible should get off the backs of the community," she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Dallat has urged Greysteel killer Torrens Knight to reveal the secrets of the 1993 atrocity and other murders.

Knight received 12 life sentences for his role in the murders along with the killing of four Catholic workmen in Castlerock the same year.

Knight told Sunday newspapers he regrets the murders and called them “unjustifiable”.

Mr Dallat said his apology was not enough.

“Torrens Knight holds the key to unlocking the insight to one of the worst periods of genocide that took place in this part of Ireland during the eighties,” he said.

“Of course, people cannot be brought back to life again but he can expose those who masterminded the campaign which directed him and his cohorts to go murdering at Castlerock and Greysteel.”

By doing so, the former loyalist gunman would help prevent such attacks taking place again, Mr Dallat said.

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