A small bomb exploded beneath the driver’s seat of a car near Belfast on Saturday, killing the Protestant driver and engulfing the vehicle in flames.
The bomb went off as Glen Greer, 28, drove away from his home in Bangor, 15 miles east of Belfast, making him the first political killing in Northern Ireland in three months.
Greer, who crawled from the burning vehicle but died later in a hospital, may have been targeted in a feud involving one or more of Northern Ireland’s four pro-British, Protestant paramilitary groups.
Two of the groups are represented at multiparty negotiations on Northern Ireland’s future, which resumed last month. No group has claimed responsibility for the bomb.
On Thursday, the umbrella organization coordinating policy among three of those paramilitary groups - which together have been observing an October 1994 cease-fire - officially collapsed. And Bangor is a past feuding ground where one paramilitary commander was gunned down by disgruntled comrades in September 1995.
The pro-British paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, or UVF, on Saturday denied any involvement in Greer’s killing, said Ernie Steele, a Bangor spokesman for the UVF’s affiliated Progressive Unionist Party.
But the other outlawed paramilitary groups rooted in poor Protestant areas - the Ulster Defense Association, Red Hand Commando and Loyalist Volunteer Force, or LVF - made no comment on the attack.
The Irish Republican Army, which draws support from militant Catholics, has been sticking to a 14-week-old cease-fire. The IRA rarely has mounted operations in the Bangor area, which is heavily Protestant and home to many soldiers and police.
The IRA’s last fatal attack was June 16, when two Protestant policemen were shot dead while on foot patrol in Lurgan, 35 miles southwest of Belfast.
Pro-British militants last struck July 15, when an 18-year-old Catholic woman, Bernadette Martin, was shot and killed while she slept beside her Protestant boyfriend.
Meanwhile, in Newcastle, 30 miles south of Belfast, leaders of the Ulster Unionist Party countered grass roots criticism of participation in negotiations on the future of the province. Some have accused Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble of “treachery” and “surrender.”
But Trimble told his party’s annual conference Saturday that it was right to confront the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party at the negotiating table.