A band hall in south Armagh which was due to host a commemoration this week in memory of a dead Provisional IRA member has been destroyed in an arson attack.

Local sources linked the attack to growing tensions in the area between the Provisionals and republican dissidents. There were fights at a nearby hotel between the two groups last weekend. There are also unconfirmed reports of both sides producing guns during separate confrontations.

The hall is regularly used by Sinn Féin members among others. 'RUC out' was daubed over the walls of the burned-out shell of the building.

Local sources said it was a message by dissidents and their supporters that Sinn Féin were regarded as "collaborators" with the police and the state.

The hall in Cullyhanna was due to host a commemoration to mark the 20th anniversary of IRA and Sinn Féin member Fergal Caraher, who was shot dead by the British army in 1990. A number of instruments belonging to the republican band which practises in the hall were destroyed in the blaze.

The arson attack was condemned by local Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy, who said it was an assault on the "whole community and a valuable asset built as a result of local fundraising".