Irish Independent

New loyalist violence feared

EXTRA police officers are patrolling the streets of Belfast in a bid to halt a new surge in loyalist paramilitary violence.

Security chiefs in the north of the city suspect that terrorist crime gangs have been behind a series of attacks on a taxi firm which has heightened tensions.

Five drivers have had their cars hijacked at gunpoint before being set alight.

Former PUP member Jackie Mahood, who owns the Call-a-Cab firm, is blaming loyalist paramilitaries for trying to put him out of business. And his assessment of the violence was backed by the district police commander for north Belfast, Mike Little.

Chief Superintendent Little said: "We can confirm that organised criminality with paramilitary links is behind the co-ordinated incidents involving taxi cabs in north Belfast this weekend.

"Over the coming days, we will be increasing police patrols in the area in a bid to prevent further incidents."

Members of the UVF have been blamed for the violence.

Mr Mahood warned more than 50 drivers and 12 staff could lose their jobs if he is forced to close.

A former member of the Progressive Unionist Party, which has links to the UVF, Mr Mahood was shot in the head twice at his depot in 1997.

His business was also pipe-bombed in 2000. Both attacks were blamed on the UVF. The hijackings occurred on Saturday in areas across north Belfast.

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