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Loyalists Wound Three in Another Attack on Sinn Fein Headquarters

February 18, 1994 GMT

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Pro-British ″loyalist″ gunmen on Friday shot and wounded three workers repairing the headquarters of the Sinn Fein party, which supports the IRA.

Last week, the loyalists fired a rocket at the headquarters in Catholic west Belfast. The shootings, including another overnight, have increased tension in Belfast. The capital had suffered relatively little political- sectarian violence since the December peace declaration for Northern Ireland.

The loyalist Ulster Defense Association, the republic’s largest Protestant paramilitary group, claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack that left three workers wounded in the stomach and legs. The outlawed UDA targets Catholics in general and Sinn Fein activists in particular in its campaign to keep Northern Ireland under British rule.

Witnesses said the gunmen escaped on foot through a Catholic neighborhood and headed toward a Protestant district on the other side of Belfast’s main freeway.

Overnight, a grandfather babysitting his daughter’s four children was shot and seriously wounded in a north Belfast home, police said. No group claimed responsibility.

Sinn Fein accused Northern Ireland’s security forces of colluding with the Protestant gunmen in their attacks on the party headquarters, a claim police dismiss as propaganda.

Besides the gun and rocket attacks, the UDA also left a grenade attached to a trip wire outside the office Feb. 7. British army experts defused the explosive after a Sinn Fein worker spotted it.

On Thursday the Irish Republican Army committed its first killing of the year, blasting an armored police van as it drove into a Catholic neighborhood of south-central Belfast. Killed behind the wheel was 30-year-old Constable Johnston Beacom, a father of three small children.

British Prime Minister John Major and Irish leader Albert Reynolds, who are to meet Saturday in London to discuss their peace declaration, have offered Sinn Fein a place in peace talks if the IRA first ends its violent campaign against British rule.