TWO men have been treated in hospital for gunshot wounds following a murder bid by dissident republicans in north Belfast.
The double shooting happened in the Oldpark Road area happened around 7.30pm on Friday evening.
It is understood two men from the Ardoyne/Oldpark were sitting in a car when they were fired on by gunmen believed to have been from the dissident terror gang Oghaigh na hEireann.
Some reports suggest that up to ten shots were fired at them.
Both men are said to be well known in the area. One is believed to be a local pub bouncer.
Two ambulances rushed to the scene but by the time they arrived the victims were gone.
One of the men underwent emergency surgery in the Mater Hospital on the Crumlin Road while the other was first assessed by doctors before receiving treament.
The men, aged 22 and 24, are said to be in a serious but stable condition in hospital.
Sources in the area likened the shootings to a “gangland” style attack.
“We have been told the attack was carried out by dissident republicans, namely ONH,” said a source in the area.
North Belfast PSNI Chief Inspector Andy Freeburn described the attack as “reckless and callous”.
“This was an utterly reckless attack with up to 40 members of the public, including women and children, in close proximity,” he said.
“Two people have been very seriously injured but we are lucky that we are not dealing with many more casualties today.
“This type of attack is unacceptable in our community – no one deserves to be hurt or injured in this way and no one has the right to put the safety of so many at risk.
“We will do everything we can to find those responsible and bring them before the courts.
“The help of the local community is vital in helping us create a clear picture of this attack and we would ask for their support as we conduct our enquiries.”
The double shooting came just three days after a political row erupted after detectives arrested convicted Shankill bomber Sean Kelly over a gun attack on an 18-year-old.
The 39-year-old was held for two days but was later released from custody “unconditionally”.
The DUP called for Kelly to be thrown back in prison for breaching the terms of his early release licence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
However, Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinnness told the DUP to “hold their nerve” and described as “frankly ridiculous” DUP claims that the shooting threatened to bring down the peace process.
Following Friday night’s double murder bid, politicians condemned the attack.
North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said: “This is the second shooting in north Belfast within the last week and has to be condemned.
“There is no place for these gun gangs in our community and the people do not want them.
“This shooting damages the community and the people behind them need to stop,” he said.
North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland has described an upsurge in violence in the Greater Ardoyne area as “deeply worrying”.
SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon described the shooting as a “cowardly and violent” attack.
“The spread of gun shots in a busy built up residential area in the early evening shows a reckless regard for people living here.
“Those that resort to such cowardly and violent attacks have no place and serve no purpose for the people of north Belfast. We are seeing a worrying disregard for human life and an escalation of street violence which is totally unacceptable,” she said.
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson called for anyone with information about the shooting to contact police.
“Tonight’s events have also inconvenienced a whole community, proving yet again why it is essential we face all problems facing our society in a practical way, building a better, shared future for everyone,” said the party’s justice spokesperson.
“It is only when the community backs the police in their fight for justice that we can begin to rid our streets of this behaviour.”
The Oldpark Road at its junction with Oldpark Avenue and Ardoyne Avenue was closed while a forensic examination was carried out.
Detectives have appealed for information about the attack.