Irish News - Irish Independent

SF criticises police in bank raid probes

SINN Fein has accused the police investigating the £22m Northern Bank raid of a campaign of harassment.

The claims were made as police carried out a number of searches of premises in a business complex on the Stewartstown Road area of Belfast. This followed searches yesterday at the Blackstaff complex on the Springfield Road.

Sinn Fein Assembly member Michael Ferguson said keyholders had been ordered by police to turn up at their premises.

"This morning the PSNI once again have launched a series of planned attacks on properties throughout West Belfast. These have included searches on business premises and on community projects. This behaviour is completely unacceptable."

"Given the selective media briefing in advance of these operations and the failure to uncover any evidence it is clear that the purpose of this operation is not to find bank robbers but to attempt to derail republican efforts to see the peace process put back on track," he added.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has complained about the police investigators' actions. Meanwhile, the two families taken hostage by the raid gang were able to return to their homes yesterday, following a police forensic examination.

Houses belonging to 24-year-old Chris Ward, in the Poleglass area of west Belfast, and Kevin McMullan, in Loughinisland, Co Down, had been preserved as crime scenes since last Monday when details of the raid on the vaults of the Northern Bank in Belfast emerged.

British Army experts defused a firebomb yesterday that had been hidden in a clothes shop in Newry. IRA dissidents opposed to the cease-fire have planted 16 devices and destroyed several businesses, including a new hardware superstore outside Belfast two weeks ago.

Gary Kelly

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