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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 19:05 GMT
Machete used in sectarian attack
Michael O'Hara; Believes machete was used in attack

Police in Belfast say a man is being questioned about a sectarian attack in which a machete may have been used during an assault on a community worker.

Michael O'Hara was severely beaten and slashed on the arms and back in the attack which occurred on Wednesday night not too far from his home in the mainly nationalist Short Strand area of east Belfast.

The 45-year-old father of two grown up children suffered extensive injuries to his face.as well as deep cuts to his arm and back.

He didn't want to be fully identified when he spoke about the incident as he recovered in his home on Friday.

'Neighbours saved my life'

One thing was going through his mind during the incident.

"Survival - I was aware of what was going on and hoping and praying I'd survive it.

He paid tributes to his neighbours who came to his rescue. "The grace of God and the quick actions of my neighbours saved my life," he said.

He says he was struck with the butt of a gun - he also believes a machete may have been used in the assault.

The two attackers were pursued by neighbours up Seaforde Street and into the grounds of St. Matthews Catholic Church.

A passing RUC patrol saw the commotion and arrested one man - the other escaped. A replica gun was found and a machete was later handed into the RUC.

A police spokesman said the attack was undoubtedly sectarian.

"I think it was through the actions of his neighbours that he was prevented from suffering more serious injury," he said.

Detectives say at this stage there's nothing to link any loyalist group to the assault.

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