A man in west Belfast was shot in his leg on Sunday, in what Northern Ireland police described as a paramilitary style assault. The man, who seems to be in his 40's, was given first aid by a member of the public until emergency services arrived. He was taken to a hospital for treatment of his injuries.

According to the BBC, the man was reportedly brought into an alleyway at the Creeslough Walk area around 8:15 pm by two unidentified men dressed in dark clothing and was then shot in his left leg. The men fled the scene and headed towards the Suffolk road.

A paramilitary style assault, also known as extrajudicial punishment attacks, were typically carried out by Ulster loyalist and Irish republican paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. These could serve as a warning or a form of expulsion backed up by threats of violence and beatings that usually leave victims hospitalised with severe injuries. It can also involve shootings in the limbs, particularly on kneecaps or more commonly called "kneecapping".

Since the 1970's such attacks have been linked to Northern Ireland conflict and its ideological opposition to British law enforcement mainly due to the ineffectiveness of the police to fight crime. There have been more than 6,000 paramilitary attacks since 1973, which has reportedly led to about 115 deaths at the very least. Many such attacks have not been reported with most victims being young men under the age of 30.

Attempts to put an end to this practice have fallen through the cracks as paramilitaries continue to inflict their informal criminal justice system. This form of vigilantism has gained quite the local support as they believe the attacks are justified for the reason that the official system most often fails the working class communities which usually suffer the brunt of the crimes.

Det. Sgt. Stephen Gardiner of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said, "Those responsible for this barbaric act do not represent the interests of this community, nor do they contribute anything to it," said Det Sgt Gardiner.

"They do it to try and exert influence, or gain control of those they claim to represent."

The PSNI is urging anyone with information connected to the shooting to call detectives on 1010 quoting the reference number 1619 25/10/20. Information can also be given anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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A coat of arms is pictured at the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Headquarters in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on February 5, 2010. PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images