Northern Ireland news

Man critical following Shankill shooting was 'not the intended target'

Forensic officers at the scene of the shooting at Hopewell Crescent in the lower Shankill Road area of Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE shooting of a man in north Belfast was a callous, brutal and violent attempt to kill, a senior police officer said yesterday.

The 29-year-old is in a critical condition in hospital following the gun attack in the Shankill Road area on Sunday night.

The Irish News understands that the man attacked was the victim of mistaken identity.

A 45 second CCTV video clip posted online shows a car, believed to be the carrying the gunman, driving to the rear of houses at Hopewell Crescent at 11.11pm on Sunday.

Seven shots are heard in a quick burst of gunfire, before the car is seen driving away at speed.

Later a burnt-out car was found around three miles away at Fortwilliam Golf Club, near Gray's Lane. It has been taken away for forensic examination.

The victim of the attack was hit multiple times in the upper body as he stood at the back door of a house which is adjacent to the Mater Hospital.

However it is understood that he was not the intended target.

Sources have said that a man, who lives in a property in the vicinity of the attack and is known to police, was warned last month of threats against him.

A burnt-out car found at Fortwilliam Golf Club in north Belfast has been taken away for forensic examination. Picture by Hugh Russell.

While previously linked to the West Belfast UDA the intended target is understood to have been under threat from former loyalist associates as well as dissident republicans, both with criminal links.

Threatening graffiti had also appeared in the lower Shankill in the recent weeks with tensions rising between factions linked to the supply of drugs.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Natalie McNally, who appealed for information, described the shooting as "a callous, brutal and violent attempt to kill."

"No matter how small or insignificant you think your information may seem, we would encourage you to come forward to police and not to share it on social media", she said.

"We are particularly keen to hear from anyone who saw a dark coloured saloon car leave the area at speed just before 11.15pm."

DUP councillor Brian Kingston said he was deeply concerned at the attack and appealed for no further escalation of tensions in the area.

"I am aware of speculation as to what was behind this, but it is too early to make any comment on that," Mr Kingston said.

"What I am deeply concerned about is that guns were used and a man is now in a critical condition in an attack that has to be considered as attempted murder.

"This should be utterly condemned, I have been speaking to residents and it has been a long time since guns have been used in the lower Shankill.

"I know there has been some evidence of tensions in the area...and so I would appeal for there to be no further escalation.

"Whatever emerges about the circumstances it is wrong and is to be condemned," he said.

"This is deeply damaging to a local community and undermines those local people working positively in the area."

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