A man and woman have been shot in Northern Ireland while attempting to protect their son from paramilitaries.
The couple, who are in their 50s, are in a stable condition in hospital after they were shot in the legs by gunmen when they refused to hand over their son in Belfast. It is understood republican paramilitaries in the west of the city ordered the attack on the boy.
The men arrived at a house in the Turf Lodge area of the city on Thursday evening to carry out the attack but the child's parents fought them off.
PSNI chief inspector Norman Haslett said three masked and armed men had taken "law and order into their own hands" and shot the couple in the legs.
He described the couple’s ordeal as “horrific” and said those responsible have “no moral compass whatsoever”.
"People have taken law and order into their own hands and assumed the role of judge and jury and have passed the sentence. There is one police service in west Belfast and that is the Police Service of Northern Ireland, " he said.
Mr Haslett said a number of lines of inquiry were being followed, but it is understood that one is that the man and woman were shot while protecting their son.
“Thankfully the injuries are not life-threatening but the ordeal and trauma they went through must have been quite horrific,” he said.
“This was a brutal and callous attack on a defenceless couple in their house. The people who did this have no moral compass whatsoever.
“We had a shooting in west Belfast before Christmas where a young 16-year-old boy was shot. We now have a couple shot in their own home. I am not linking them but this type of behaviour is totally unacceptable.
“The criminals who did this just want to drag us into the past. The people who did this should get off the backs of the community. The community don’t want them.”
Sinn Féin MLA for the area Pat Sheehan said none of the family was involved in criminality. "There can be absolutely no justification for these type of actions," he said.
Alliance Party justice spokesman Trevor Lunn also condemned the shootings. "Yet again we see guns on the streets of Belfast," he said.
SDLP MLA for the area Alex Atwood described the double shooting as "the latest act of tyranny in west Belfast". – (PA)