Protestants Kill Catholic, Allege He Killed Protestant
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Protestant assailants burst into a Roman Catholic man’s house with a sledgehammer early Friday and shot him to death when he got out of bed to investigate the commotion, police said.
An outlawed Protestant extremist group, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, said it killed Martin Gerard Slane, 26, and charged he was involved in the Sept. 7 shooting of a Protestant storeowner, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.
The group claimed responsibility in a message to the BBC’s Belfast studios.
Police Sgt. Michael Glover said at least two gunmen smashed their way into Slane’s home off the Falls Road in Catholic west Belfast. They shot Slane when he appeared at the top of the stairs to investigate the 4:30 a.m. break-in.
Slane was asleep in a bedroom with his wife, and their three children were in other rooms.
Neighbors said the gunmen numbered four. They escaped in a stolen car that was later found abandoned in the Shankill Road, a nearby Protestant enclave, said Glover.
The Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed numerous slayings of Catholics and bomb attacks on Catholic churches, schools and pubs in the 1970s, often alleging that its victims were linked to the mainly Catholic Irish Republican Army. The Protestant group has operated spasmodically in the 1980s.
Slane’s family denied he had any connection with the IRA or its Marxist offshoot, the Irish National Liberation Army, which claimed responsbility for killing Protestant storeowner Billy Quee, 32. He was shot by two gunmen outside his shop in north Belfast.
The Irish National Liberation Army said Quee was a leading member of the Ulster Defense Association, an umbrella group of Protestant vigilantes.
The mainly Catholic IRA is fighting to drive the British out of Northern Ireland and unite the Protestant-dominated province with the Irish Republic under a leftist administration. It is banned on both sides of the border.
Seventy-eight people, including 44 civilians, have died in violence in Northern Ireland this year. At least 2,696 people have been killed since sectarian fighting erupted in August 1969.