Attacks 'linked to loyalist feud'

A car was burnt out in the latest attack in north Belfast

Unprovoked attacks on two men in north Belfast are linked to a loyalist feud, an SDLP politician has said.

Alban Maginness said the two Catholic men may have been beaten by a loyalist gang as a "diversionary" tactic to overstretch the security forces.

Police patrols have been stepped up in the area to deal with an upsurge in violence between rival factions.

Thirty petrol bombs were found during searches in north Belfast on Wednesday, and a taxi was attacked.

There has been growing violence in a dispute between the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and the rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

On Monday night, a gang wielding baseball bats attacked a cyclist at Duncairn Gardens.

A solicitor later sustained serious head injuries after being beaten in the driveway of his house in Waterloo Gardens.

Mr Maginness, a North Belfast assembly member, said: "The problem for the ordinary population in north Belfast is that this spills over and, in particular, the Catholic population is then targeted.

The UVF and LVF are embroiled in a feud

"It seems to me that it may be some form of diversionary action being taken by loyalists in north Belfast to overstretch the police and the security forces so that they are ineffective in terms of dealing with the internecine dispute that's between the LVF and the UVF."

A taxi parked in Silverstream Avenue, in the north of the city, was petrol bombed at about midnight on Wednesday.

Its back window was smashed with a brick and a bomb thrown inside.

Neighbours extinguished the blaze with a hose but the interior of the vehicle was destroyed.

It is believed the car owner used to work for a firm partly owned by prominent loyalist Jackie Mahood.

The firm closed two days ago after 10 of its cars were burnt out.

A haul of petrol bombs was discovered in a house in the mainly loyalist Ballysillan area on Wednesday evening.

A quantity of drugs was also seized during the planned security operation. One man was arrested.

PSNI District Commander, Superintendent Mike Little, said police in the north Belfast area were determined to crack down on crime.

"This seizure demonstrates the police service's commitment to crack down and tackle all kinds of criminality in north Belfast," he said.

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