Six families were ordered to leave their homes in the mainly-Protestant village of Ahoghill after last month’s intimidation forced an elderly Catholic woman out of the home she had lived in for forty years.
In other attacks in the area, two Catholic bars were petrol-bombed and all three Catholic chapels in the Ballymena area were paint or petrol-bombed. The violence then moved to the village of Cloughmills.
The police said loyalists were behind three potentially lethal pipe-bombings in the village although all the Catholic families involved say they will not be leaving their homes.
One of the devices was left beside a work van while another was thrown at the front of a family home. A third was discovered later on a windowsill which had not detonated.
Det. Insp. Nick McCall said the families had been targeted only because they were Catholic and the police investigation was centered on loyalist paramilitaries in the North Antrim area.
Speaking from the scene in Cloughmills, a Sinn Fein councillor, Daithi McKay, said it was a concerted campaign to get Catholics out of the area and accused local DUP councilors of “egging them on.”
Tensions have been rising in the area, allegedly because of a march to commemorate the anniversary of the introduction of internment planned by republicans unaligned with Sinn Fein.
“We have seen churches attacked, businesses attacked and homes attacked. The pipe bombings in Cloughmills were the latest installment in this ongoing campaign,” McKay said.
“Despite this reality, and the difficulties it causes for the wider political process, there has been little focus put into stopping these attacks from either unionist political party.
“In recent weeks the police have attempted to justify this campaign by linking it to the anti-internment march in Ballymena. This despite the fact that the campaign pre-dates that plan and has now continued after the Parades Commission restricted the march.
“Given this police view, and their complete lack of action so far, nationalists will have little confidence in their willingness to tackle this ongoing campaign of violence and intimidation.”
Appealing to nationalists in North Antrim to remain highly vigilant, he said he wanted to “once again appeal to the leadership of the DUP to get a grip on this issue.”
Meanwhile, a shooting in North Belfast that left a man seriously injured has been blamed on the loyalist feud as police efforts to mount a crackdown led to serious rioting.
The injured man is reported to have links with the LVF. Its feud with the UVF has claimed three lives in recent weeks. In a separate incident, a pipe-bomb was discovered on the Crumlin Road on Sunday, believed to have been abandoned by those involved in rioting in the area on Thursday.
Heavy clashes broke out following the arrest of six men after police raided a total of 15 homes, nearly all in the north of the city. The men were all released without charge on Saturday.
Ten vehicles, a lorry and a bus were hijacked and set alight, while police fired 11 plastic bullets. Forty police officers were injured during the rioting, none seriously. A blast bomb was also thrown at police.
The police blamed the UVF for orchestrating the disturbances in a bid to prevent them gathering evidence on who was behind the three murders in the feud.
A local police commander said the rioters had garbage bins full of bricks and bottles and threw so many petrol bombs that police lost count. He said the rioting was clearly orchestrated and not the result of “heavy handed” policing as claimed.
DUP leader, the Rev. Ian Paisley, met the acting assistant chief constable, Wesley Wilson, to discuss the rioting and said afterwards that nothing could justify it.
“I was shocked and appalled by the scenes on the streets of North Belfast,” Paisley said. “If people have genuine grievances against the police, then I and my party colleagues are more than happy to take up their cases, but there can never be any excuse for attacking the police in this way.”
The SDLP assembly member for North Belfast, Alban Maginness, said there was no excuse for the riots or the viciousness of the hostility and violence directed at the police.