A Sinn Fein assembly member in South Armagh has said he is convinced that republicans had nothing to do with death threats issued against nine people in the Bessbrooke area and accused those behind it of waging a dirty tricks campaign designed to create difficulties in the peace process. Unionists are blaming the Direct Action Against Drugs group, a cover name for the Provisional IRA, for making the threats. The RUC would only say it does not discuss the personal security of individuals.

The group Direct Action Against Drugs was reported to have ordered nine people to leave the Northern Ireland. According to a report in today's Irish News newspaper, the group, believed to be a cover name for the IRA, made the threat in a letter sent to the Housing Executive earlier this week. The letter was passed to the RUC during the week and they issued warnings and advice to those named. Several of those named are believed to have fled the Bessbrook area.

According to the paper, five young men named in the letter contacted their local Sinn Féin assembly member Conor Murphy who is understood to have investigated the letter. He said republican sources in the area did not believe the letter was genuine. This morning the RUC said it did not discuss the personal security of individuals. Direct Action Against Drugs has been relatively quiet since it murdered nine people between 1995 and 1998. At the height of its campaign it threatened to continue attacking drug dealers until there were none left.