Dissident death threats slammed

A masked and armed member of the republican dissident group �glaigh na h-Eireann at a show of strength in the County Londonderry village of Park.
A masked and armed member of the republican dissident group �glaigh na h-Eireann at a show of strength in the County Londonderry village of Park.

There has been cross-community condemnation of a dissident show of strength - accompanied by death threats - which took place near Dungiven.

The dissident republican group Óglaigh na h-Eireann staged a show of strength on Friday night in the Co Londonderry village of Park, a mainly nationalist area near Dungiven and Claudy, the Derry Journal reported.

Three uniformed and masked men – at least one of them carrying a firearm – appeared on the edge of the village.

They posed for photographs before firing three shots into the air.

The dissident group then made a short statement in which they warned people described as “drug dealers” to come forward to the group within the next two weeks.

In a chilling message, they stated: “After that, knee-cappings are not an option, it is death”.

The three men then disappeared back into nearby trees.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton condemned the incident.

The Park village community would be “very close knit” and this type of conduct has generally decreased in recent years, he said.

“But the PSNI need to see of they can take action - it is obviously illegal to be masked and armed like this. It does nothing but put fear into the community.

“We do not want drug dealers in our society but there are ways and means to deal with them - through the PSNI.”

He said he was not aware of a problem with drug dealers in the area.

It is a mainly nationalist area but there is strong cross-community work going on in it, especially in the youth sector, he added.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan asked if the gunmen may have been using the cover of drug dealers to intimidate others.

“This is something quite worrying and quite frightening - that people still think it is acceptable to come out and fire guns into the air,” he said.

Many people had hoped images like these had been consigned to the annals of history in this area, he said.

There is no particular history of such activity in this village, he said, although there have been quite a few suspect devices in nearby Dungiven in the not too distant past.

“Recently we saw a murder in north Belfast where the killers claimed the victim was involved in criminality - but his family insisted ever since that this was not the case,” said Mr Durkan.

“It is widely accepted that he was targeted due to a domestic dispute. It would not be the first time threats were issued to promote other agendas.”

Police in Londonderry said they are aware of media reports of shots being fired by masked men in the Park area on Friday night. “Enquiries into this incident are ongoing,” a spokesman said. “Anyone who has any information about this incident is asked to contact officers at Strand Road on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Óglaigh na h-Eireann has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in recent years in the North West area.

They also were responsible for a bomb outside Derry’s Strand Road PSNI station in August 2010.