By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST — Loyalist violence continued unabated through New Year’s with almost daily pipe bombings, stabbings and riots at flashpoints in North Belfast and the death of one teenager in County Derry.
Even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself, there was rioting along the notorious Tigers’ Bay-New Lodge interface.
William Moore Campbell, a 19-year-old Protestant from Coleraine, died in an explosion just yards from his home on Jan. 4. Police believe he was constructing a bomb when it exploded.
The death is being linked to a bombing campaign carried out by the largest loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA, against Catholics in mixed areas of Coleraine, where nearly 100 pipe bomb attacks have been recorded over the last 12 months.
Police are also investigating the theory that a nearby abandoned house may have been used by loyalist paramilitaries as a store for explosives.
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Campbell’s body was found in an alleyway by his father, who had heard the explosion.
“With so many pipe bomb and blast bomb attacks in Coleraine, it was inevitable that eventually someone would lose their life, whether that was the perpetrator or the victim of this violence,” said the town’s mayor, John Dallat of the SDLP.
The East Derry MP, Gregory Campbell of the DUP, described the death as “tragic” but said loyalists were increasingly attracted to violence, having seen “violence paying” in the peace process with Sinn Fein in government.
Thursday, Jan. 3, saw a number of other attacks on Catholic families. In North Belfast, a large device containing shrapnel exploded after it was thrown through a window of a house in a nationalist area. A mother and her four children escaped injury.
Police said the bomb blew a large hole in the floor, and shrapnel punched holes in the walls and ceiling.
The 36-year-old woman said her children, who range in age from 9-1, were terrified.
“I was putting the kids down and as soon as I got them to sleep all I heard was a big bang,” she said. “I got the two young ones in the front room into the back room and that’s when I heard the neighbors in the street trying to kick the door down to get me and the kids out.”
Although most of the attacks over the holidays were targeted at Catholics, on Jan. 6 the UDA also attacked the family of a prison officer in North Belfast, throwing a pipe bomb into their home.
The officer’s wife suffered shrapnel injuries to her back that required treatment. Her husband escaped injury, but their 4-year-old daughter suffered a number of cuts to her back.
The Red Hand Defenders said it carried out the attack as retaliation for alleged “harassment” of loyalists in Maghaberry Prison, including top loyalist Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair and one of his lieutenants, Gary “Smicker” Smith.
On Jan. 2, the UDA was accused of the stabbing of a 43-year-old Catholic man, again in North Belfast. He was treated in hospital after being attacked near his home in the Limestone Road area.
Sinn Fein councilor Gerard Brophy said the attack recalled the days of the Shankill Butchers, when a knife-wielding loyalist gang randomly tortured and murdered innocent Catholics.
“It was a well-orchestrated attempted murder once again by the UDA,” he said.
According to residents, the father of five was assaulted after he confronted several men who were vandalizing a car outside his house.