Monday, March 27, 2023

By Jonathan McCambridge and Rebecca Black, PA

A series of linked attacks in Co Down are part of a feud between two UDA drugs gangs, the PSNI have said.

A senior officer has appealed to the public to remain vigilant as he revealed that eight properties have been attacked in recent days, including with pipe bombs and petrol bombs.

There have also been attempted hijackings and graffiti daubed on properties.

In response, police have increased patrols in the North Down and Ards areas.

PSNI North Down and Ards district commander Johnston McDowell said: “Police are investigating a linked series of incidents, including criminal damage and arson with intent to endanger life.

“These incidents are linked to an ongoing feud between two rival drug gangs operating under the banner of the Ulster Defence Association in the North Down and Ards areas.

“Since March 22nd, eight houses, many of which were occupied at the time, have been attacked with a pipe bomb, petrol bombs and other implements.

“During this period there has also been two attempted hijackings and incidents of graffiti daubed on properties.”

Mr McDowell added: “All of these attacks are unacceptable but petrol and pipe bomb attacks are particularly reckless given their potential to cause serious damage to properties, injuries and death to anyone in the vicinity.

“The people behind these attacks have shown a total disregard for the safety of the community.

“This activity will not be tolerated, and I want to reassure people living in North Down and Ards that we have already increased our policing presence across the area, so they can expect to see heightened police activity.

Damage to a property in the Moyne Gardens area of Newtownards, which was attacked last night. Picture date: Monday, March 27th, 2023.

“The community can help us by sharing any information they have on who might be responsible for these attacks and reporting any other suspicious activity directly to us on 999 or 101.”

In the latest incident, a man, aged in his 60s, was injured after a house on Moyne Gardens in Newtownards was attacked on Sunday night.

A police spokesman said at around 10pm it was reported that a brick was thrown through a front window of a property, before two petrol bombs were also thrown into the property, which caused fire damage to the window ledge, roof and floor.

Bricks were also thrown through an upstairs window and a kitchen window, and damage was caused to a car parked outside the house.

On Saturday there was a petrol bomb attack at a house on Dicksonia Drive in Newtownards.

A police spokesperson said at around 10.15pm they received a report and attended the scene along with firefighters, who extinguished a blaze.

They said a number of windows were broken, and extensive damage was caused to the front of the property, but no-one was inside at the time.

It is being treated as arson with intent to endanger life.

There was also a report of a petrol bomb attack on a house on Skipperstone Road in Bangor in the early hours of Saturday.

Police said three people were inside the house at the time, but they were not injured. A number of windows were broken and scorch damage was caused to the property.

Police are investigating the incident as arson with intent to endanger life.

The loyalist paramilitary UDA was active during the Troubles. It has since splintered with some factions involved in criminality.

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