SHEEP belonging to a Protestant farmer in Tyrone have been painted in the colours of the Irish tricolour as part of an ongoing campaign of intimidation, it has been claimed.
In an overnight attack last week, six pregnant sheep were rounded up and sprayed green, white and gold.
The farmer whose animals were targeted in this bizarre attack now fears many of his livestock have lost their unborn lambs because of the ordeal.
"We'll have to get the sheep scanned to see if the lambs are okay, but they have been through a terrible ordeal and there's a real chance a few lambs will be lost," said the farmer, who wished to remain anonymous.
Gateposts were also painted and a tricolour flag placed in the field on the farm, which is outside the village of Coagh.
The farmer, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said there had been an upsurge in sectarian attacks.
"I have always got on well with people here, but there have been a number of minor things happening, like gates being left open in fields where there are animals.
"It must have taken at least four or five of them to round up the sheep and paint them, so it is not just one or two young ones involved here."
Willie Frazer, from victims' group FAIR, said his organisation had been inundated by reports of similar attacks on "vulnerable" Protestant homes and farms.
"In the Tyrone attack PIRA slogans were printed on gateposts and a tri-colour with the ominous slogan 'We haven't Gone away U No' was left. Despite the poor spelling and low intelligence of the perpetrators their message was a clear warning to the isolated Protestant farmer," said Mr Frazer.
UUP MLA Billy Armstrong condemned the attack for raising tensions in "an area where Protestants and Roman Catholics live side by side".
"This was a sectarian attack and Halloween prank," he said.
A police spokesman said they had received a report of the graffiti attack on the sheep and that "inquiries were continuing".