PSNI hunt for 'violent dissident republicans' after shooting they brand as 'child abuse'

Police in the North believe violent dissident republicans are responsible for two shootings within the space of 24 hours in Belfast.

A 16-year-old boy is the latest victim of a paramilitary-style attack after he was shot in the leg in the Falls Road area, west of the city, on Thursday night.

Just 24 hours earlier, another young man was shot in the same vicinity. Both are in a stable condition in hospital.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said it was too early to say if the shootings were linked.

However, he revealed that an active line of inquiry "is around the involvement of violent dissident republicans".

Mr Noble said Thursday night's shooting was "child abuse".

PSNI officers have voiced concern over a recent spate of paramilitary-style shootings, particularly in West Belfast.

Last year the number of paramilitary-style shootings in the west of the city doubled compared to the previous year.

Mr Noble insisted that the PSNI is the only police service in West Belfast.

"There is never any justification for this violent, abusive behaviour," said Mr Noble.

He added: "There is only one police service in West Belfast and that is the PSNI. Policing only works when delivered with the community and policing in West Belfast has seen real progress over the last five years in relation to domestic burglary and vehicle crime in particular.

"Unlike others who in recent weeks have resorted to child abuse, maiming people and acting as self-appointed judges, juries and executioners, we work in partnership with the community to resolve issues of concern."

Mr Noble said police will work to bring those responsible to justice, but added that they need information from the public to help bring a prosecution.

"The dogs in the street may well know who is responsible but what I need as the local police commander is for people to come forward and give me any information, however apparently irrelevant, that our specialist detectives can use to secure a conviction.

"Information is key in these crimes where victims are often traumatised and people emerge from and run back into the shadows."

The Chief Superintendent added: "Policing has a clear strategy for keeping people safe in West Belfast and fundamentally it is about working with communities to solve challenges and being responsive and accountable to them.

"A strategy of maiming and abusing local young people and intimidating communities by violent, criminal, unelected and unaccountable individuals is not a strategy.

"This is now 2017 and yet we still have criminal elements within our community who have no moral compass whatsoever and are prepared to revert to child abuse and shooting people to further their cause. These criminals and facilitators of drug dealers need to get off the backs of the community and let us get on with making things better for everyone."

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