Catholics Bury 2 More; Protestant Sympathy for Cemetery Killer
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Catholics buried two more victims of sectarian violence Friday in peaceful services that followed 10 straight nights of rioting in Belfast.
One of the victims, Thomas McErlean, 20, was killed in an attack during an Irish Republican Army funeral at the Milltown Catholic Cemetery on Wednesday.
Police said a Protestant gunman grabbed by mourners following the attack will be charged with murder next week. The gunman, Michael Stone, 33, is accused of the assault in which three people were killed and 68 injured.
Stone also will be charged with ″other serious crimes, including murder″ not connected with the Milltown attack, said the police spokesman. He spoke on condition he not be identified.
Stone was beaten by the Roman Catholic crowd that captured him and was under armed guard in a hospital. An alleged accomplice also remained under arrest.
Press Association, the domestic British news agency, said Stone also was being questioned about 10 other sectarian killings.
Also buried Friday was Charles McGrillen, 25, who was shot Monday outside a Belfast supermarket. The outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters, a Protestant extremist group, claimed responsibility for his shooting.
The IRA fired a three-volley salute, its traditional tribute, Thursday night for Kevin Brady, 30, a member shot dead in the cemetery attack as he chased the gunman.
Hooded IRA men fired the volleys, which are prohibited, as Brady’s coffin was being taken from his home to St. Agnes Roman Catholic Chapel, where a funeral mass is scheduled for Saturday.
Security forces kept a low profile as McGrillen and McErlean were buried in separate funerals Friday.
The Ulster Freedom Fighters expressed guarded support for the cemetery attack.
″We understand his frustrations and motives, and we do not condemn his actions,″ the group’s statement said of the gunman who opened fire and threw hand grenades at the mourners in the cemetery.
A caller, who gave a code word to prove authenticity, telephoned the statement to the Belfast newsroom of the British Broadcasting Corp.
Gerry Adams, president of the outlawed IRA’s legal political wing, Sinn Fein, said at a news conference that Stone was not ″a lone lunatic″ and reiterated charges that the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the province’s mainly Protestant police force, colluded in the attack.
″I do know he wasn’t a kamikaze because he wore gloves, he wore a cap, he had plotted out a route and he did intend to escape,″ Adams said.
The allegations of collusion have been rejected by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and denied by Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King, Britain’s top official in the province.
Adams said Sinn Fein has launched its own inquiry into the attack.
He sat at a table flanked with pictures from the Republican News, Sinn Fein’s weekly newspaper, which had photographs of two guns it said were recovered at the cemetery and the gunman’s black beret and gloves.
The paper said a Browning 9mm automatic pistol manufactured in Belgium was taken from the captured gunman. It had jammed with 12 rounds of ammunition left, the paper said.
A .357-caliber Magnum revolver similar to those used by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the early 1980s was found at the cemetery, the paper said.
Asked whether the guns would be turned over to police, Adams said he did not know where the weapons were.
In the sporadic overnight rioting, which died down in the early hours of Friday, Catholic youths hurled gasoline bombs at police patrols and a row of Protestant homes in Belfast and burned and hijacked cars.