N. Ireland police warn of more tit-for-tat killings

June 20, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

LONDON -- Police in Northern Ireland warned of more sectarian killings after six Catholics were killed by gunmen while watching Ireland's World Cup soccer match on television in a pub late Saturday.

"We are in the middle of a series of tit-for-tat killings," Deputy Chief Constable Blair Wallace of the Royal Ulster Constabulary said yesterday. "They started on Thursday and Friday, and this was undoubtedly one of that series."

He said that police had been on alert over the weekend but that it was impossible to determine exactly where the killers would strike.

The outlawed Protestant Unionist paramilitary group -- the Ulster Volunteer Force -- claimed responsibility for the slayings.

Deputy Chief Constable Wallace declared that "it is quite clear each of the terrorist groups are endeavoring to outdo the other in the enormity of their blood lust."

Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds, who had celebrated Ireland's unexpected 1-0 victory over Italy, declared yesterday that the pub attack was a "slaughter of the innocents."

Patrick Mayhew, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, denounced the attack as "inhuman savagery." The shootings occurred at O'Toole's bar in the isolated village of Loughinisland in County Down, south of Belfast. Witnesses said that two men entered the pub and began shooting with an assault rifle, hitting 11 of the 24 people in the bar. Six died, and five who were wounded are in the hospital.

Local villagers expressed shock and anger that the paramilitary group would attack the Catholic-owned pub, which was known to have a friendly atmosphere and also attracted Protestant drinkers.

Deputy Chief Constable Wallace warned that more attacks could follow because the World Cup contests are expected to draw large television-viewing crowds, presenting many obvious targets.

"We have specific concerns about a number of events where people are likely to congregate in numbers in specific places, including, obviously, pubs during the World Cup matches," he said.

The pub attack followed a surge of violence in the province in which four people were slain in 24 hours.

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