By Brendan Anderson
BELFAST — A Catholic man is critically ill in a Belfast hospital after he and his brother were targeted by loyalist gunmen in their Derry city home in the early hours of Monday.
The shootings happened just after midnight when six masked and armed men burst into the brothers’ home at Garvagh Court in the loyalist Waterside area and opened fire. The 49-year-old was hit several times in the upper legs and groin. His brother, 53, received gunshot wounds above his right knee. The gunmen escaped on foot.
Both men were rushed to the city’s Altnagelvin hospital, but the more seriously injured younger brother was later transferred to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.
The brothers are believed to have moved into the city apartment recently from their home in the countryside. Police said a motive for the shooting is still being investigated, though it is now believed to be sectarian after earlier reports suggested it may have been drug related. The incident is certain to heighten tension in Derry ahead of next month’s contentious loyalist Apprentice Boys parade through the city. Nationalists earlier this week gave notice to the RUC that they intend to hold a counter-demonstration.
The deputy mayor of Derry, Sinn Fein Councilor Lynn Fleming, warned Catholics living in the Waterside area to be vigilant following the attack on the brothers.
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“This is the latest in a long list of attacks on Catholics living in isolated areas of the Waterside and it highlights the vulnerability of the Catholic community in the area,” Fleming said. “I would now urge all Catholics living in the Waterside to exercise caution and to remain extremely vigilant in the coming months.”
The incident was also strongly condemned by the anti-intimidation group Families Against Intimidation and Terror.
Gregory Campbell, security spokesman for the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, said he too was “extremely concerned” about the attack.
“This may be an indication of certain paramilitary groups trying to put fear into the lives of people living in the area,” Campbell said. “I would express the hope that this will not spread into other nearby estates because of the imminent increase in tension in the next few weeks.”