Gunman wounds Belfast man, daughter outside home

DUBLIN -- A gunman shot and critically wounded a Belfast man and his daughter Tuesday outside their home, police said.

No paramilitary group claimed responsibility for the morning drive-by shooting in north Belfast. But the attackers' suspected getaway vehicle was found burning in an Irish nationalist area where Irish Republican Army factions operate.

Police said the 47-year-old man was shot twice in the chest, his 18-year-old daughter in the stomach and hand, as they were about to step into a car in their driveway. They said the attacker fired approximately five shots from a passing van.

The man's wounds were described as life-threatening, while his daughter was in critical but stable condition. Police said it was too early to specify a motive.

Police made no arrests after finding the suspect escape vehicle burning, to destroy forensic evidence, in a narrow dead-end street in a hard-line Irish nationalist enclave about 1 mile away.

That part of north Belfast was particularly dangerous during the height of Northern Ireland's conflict because it consists of several working-class British Protestant and Irish Catholic districts. They remain separated today by brick walls, steel fences and other barriers locally known as "peace lines."

Shootings have been far less frequent in Northern Ireland since cease-fires by major paramilitary groups took hold in the mid-1990s. But several small underground groups continue to mount attacks, particularly three IRA splinter groups still trying to destabilize the British territory and its broadly successful 1998 peace agreement. They oppose the 2005 decision of the major IRA faction, the Provisionals, to disarm and renounce violence.

In a separate attack, British Army experts safely defused a pipebomb left in the driveway of a Protestant politician's home in the majority Catholic village of Rosslea near Northern Ireland's border with the Republic of Ireland. The politician, County Fermanagh councilman Harold Andrews, has suffered repeated IRA threats over the past three decades because he is one of few pro-British politicians still living near the border.

Andrews said his son found the device Monday and described it as an apparent pipe bomb with wires protruding. Police confirmed it was a viable bomb and could have detonated had it been picked up.

No group claimed responsibility, but police and politicians blamed IRA dissidents.

The IRA die-hards have gradually increased violence since 2007 when Protestant and Catholic political leaders forged a stable power-sharing government, the central goal of the 1998 peace pact.