BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Gunmen fired into a car Sunday and killed two Irish nationalist guerrillas, including the infamous 'Dr. Death' of an IRA splinter group -- Gerard Steenson. An IRA bombing also injured 11 people.
Police said the ambush was the latest shot in an internal war within the Irish National Liberation Army -- a splinter group of the Irish Repuplican Army. Both groups are seeking to oust Britain from Northern Ireland.
Police said gunmen opened fire on the car in Catholic west Belfast, sending it crashing into a fence and killing Tony McCarthy, 31, and Steenson, 29, dubbed 'Dr. Death' by the British press for beginning a purge within the INLA that left 10 members dead and 10 injured since Christmas in West Beirut.
A spokesman from the rival INLA faction telephoned Belfast offices of the British Broadcasting Corp. and said Steenson was killed because he was 'actively involved in continuous and concerted efforts to undermine the authority of the ... movement.'
Steenson, who had been serving a life term for six slayings, was freed at Christmas with 23 other INLA men when a Belfast court ruled the informer whose testimony was used to prosecute them was unreliable. Security sources called Steenson one of the most ruthless killers in Ireland.
Two hours before the killings, suspected IRA guerrillas set off a bomb at a police checkpoint, slightly injuring 11 people -- including two children and a policeman -- near Londonderry, 85 miles northwest of Belfast. Police called it 'a miracle' no one was seriously injured.
On Saturday, the INLA, which has an estimated 100 members, had claimed responsibility for killing a 32-year-old man with a shot to the head and dumping his body near the border. The group claimed he was killed for being a police informer.
The INLA, formed in 1974 as a Marxist IRA breakaway group, has been riven by infighting since its leader, Dominic 'Mad Dog' McGlinchey, was captured in the Irish Republic on St. Patrick's Day in 1984. His wife was killed by gunmen Jan. 31 as she ran a bath for her two young sons.
McGlinchey, once the most wanted man on both sides of the border, is serving a 10-year sentence for attempted murder and observers have said the INLA has 'degenerated' into a criminal organization running protection rackets in West Belfast.
A death list reportedly containing names of 20 INLA members reportedly has circulated among the gunmen and the IRA has condemned the bloodletting as hurting the Irish nationalist cause.
The INLA has been responsible for some of the worst violence linked to Northern Ireland, including the 1979 car-bomb killing of Conservative politician Airey Neave on the grounds of London's parliament and a 1982 disco blast northwest of Belfast, killing 17 people -- 11 of them British soldiers.