Man dies after Lurgan shooting

 

A 31 year old man who was shot in Lurgan, Co Armagh, last night, died from his injuries early this morning, Suzanne Breen reports.

He was the first victim of an apparent paramilitary shooting in the North this year. Witnesses said that the man was shot last night by at two gunmen in the nationalist Taghnevan estate, off the Portadown Road, where he been visiting his girlfriend.

The couple has just left her home and were getting into a car in Connor Park when the gunmen opened fire just after 8 p.m. It is believed that a shotgun was used in the attack. The man, who has not been named, was hit several times in the chest, but his girlfriend escaped injury. The attackers ran off.

The RUC said that it had no motive for the killing, but detectives in Lurgan did not rule out the possibility that it was drugs related.

No organisation claimed responsibility for the shooting, but there was speculation locally that the IRA was involved. The victim was still conscious when he was rushed to Craigavon Area Hospital and then transferred to the Royal Victoria in Belfast for emergency surgery. He died at about 1.30 a.m.

The SDLP MP for Newry and Armagh, Mr Seamus Mallon, said that some people were evidently intent on exacting vengeance from the barrel of a gun.

The Ulster Unionist MP, Mr Ken Maginnis, claimed that the IRA was involved in the shooting and said that it was "significant" that its campaign had spread from Belfast to MidUlster.

Mr Maginnis said: "It is evident that those involved are not going to be deterred by either the Irish Government or public opinion and are determined to escalate the violence.

"If you take last month, the killing rate is higher than it was in 1985, and that is very worrying. I think it is a prelude to something worse.

"It may be looked on by some as an attempt to control Catholic areas and present themselves as some kind of alternative legitimate force of law and order. But I think it is a prelude to the sort of killings that will provoke retaliation from other quarters. They are looking for a catalyst for a return to violence."

Four men - all alleged drug dealers - were killed in Belfast last month. A group calling itself Direct Action Against Drugs claimed responsibility for three of the killings, but senior security force and republican sources insisted that the IRA was involved.

Meanwhile, two men were badly beaten in separate incidents in the south Armagh village of Crossmaglen last night. In one incident, six men, two of them said to be armed, entered a bar and singled out a 19 year old man. He was taken to hospital with injuries to his head, arms and legs. The attackers were reported to have said that they were from the IRA.

In an earlier incident, a 34 year old man was found badly beaten in the village. He suffered injuries to his body, legs and arms. No motive was apparent for either incident.

In an earlier incident in north Belfast a 23 year old man received head injuries when he was attacked in Duncairn Gardens, off the Antrim Road.