Leading loyalist Adair says IRA tried to kill him in bomb attack

 

A leading loyalist, Mr Johnny Adair, has said he had a "miraculous" escape when a pipe-bomb exploded near his car in north Belfast on Monday night. Mr Adair said the Provisional IRA was responsible. British army technical experts later recovered the remains of a pipe-bomb in the area.

The RUC said it could not comment on Mr Adair's claims, but security sources said they were "extremely sceptical" about the circumstances of the incident. Mr Adair said the attack happened shortly after midnight as he sat in his car in Beechpark Street, a Protestant area on the interface with Oldpark Road, north Belfast.

"I was sitting in a car minding my own business when someone threw a blast bomb at me. They came from behind, like cowards, as they always do. There is no doubt in my mind it was the Provisional IRA."

Mr Adair was reported to have driven off after the blast and security sources said his car had not been presented for forensic examination earlier yesterday. The chairman of the Ulster Democratic Party, the UDA's political wing, Mr John White, said Mr Adair was "very, very lucky to be alive". He said Mr Adair had pulled over in his car to speak to a group of loyalists watching the area after successive nights of sectarian attacks on houses across north Belfast.

As he was about to get out of the car, the device was thrown, leaving Mr Adair with minor cuts and bruising, according to Mr White. Mr Adair and Mr White rejected suggestions by the security forces that the recovered pipe-bomb was of a type never used by republicans.

"They [the attackers] don't want it to be traced back to the Provisional IRA. They want it to be done in such a way that they are seen to have kept their ceasefire intact," Mr Adair said.

He said the attack was mounted from the nationalist Ardoyne district and his attackers fled on foot. Sinn Fein yesterday dismissed Mr Adair's claims as "extremely dubious".

Mr Gerry Kelly, a party MLA in north Belfast, said he had conducted "extensive inquiries" in the area and the claim that republicans were behind an attack on Mr Adair was "without foundation".

The UDP chairman denied the incident could have been part of an internal loyalist feud which has been ongoing between the UDA and the UVF in the area, and said the RUC had warned Mr Adair last week that republicans would attempt to kill him.

"I think this attempt on Mr Adair's life was republicans trying to provoke reaction from loyalists and create the instability on which they thrive, and in order to gain more concessions in their quest to undermine our Britishness and bring about a united Ireland," Mr White said.

He called on paramilitaries on both sides to "draw back from the brink" after a spate of sectarian attacks across Northern Ireland has heightened tensions in recent weeks.

The Alliance Party condemned the attack on Mr Adair, describing it as "another effort to stoke up inter-community tensions" in Belfast.

Last week, the Ulster Freedom Fighters reinstated a threat issued earlier this summer to shoot anyone attacking Protestant homes.

Mr Adair, nicknamed "Mad Dog" for his role in directing violence in the early 1990s, was released last September under the Belfast Agreement's early release scheme from the high-security Maze Prison, where he was the UDA/UFF's commander.