Four arrests after police searches target UDA in west Belfast


Four people have been arrested as part of a police operation against suspected loyalist paramilitary activity.

Detectives from the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Taskforce made the arrests during two days of searches targeting the UDA in West Belfast.

It is understood one of those detained is an alleged senior leadership figure in the criminal organisation.

The suspects are aged 24, 32, 34 and 36.

Drugs and paramilitary paraphernalia were seized during the operation.

PSNI Detective Inspector Heather Whoriskey said: "Police have conducted 13 searches over the past two days in North Belfast, Holywood and Portadown.

"During the course of these we have seized numerous paramilitary uniforms and associated paraphernalia including badges, flags and UDA ties. We have also found drugs - steroids and cannabis - as well as mobile phones, tablets, and a gun holster and ammunition.

"Four men aged 24, 32, 34 and 36 were arrested under Terrorism legislation in North Belfast on suspicion of being members of a proscribed organisation, namely the UDA."

Two of the men, aged 34 and 36, were subsequently released pending a report to prosecutors for the offence of membership of a proscribed organisation.

The 36-year-old will also be reported to the PPS for the offence of being concerned in the supply of Class C controlled drugs.

The 24-year-old and 32-year-old remained in police custody on Tuesday evening.

Ms Whoriskey added: "While these searches and arrests focused specifically on the West Belfast UDA, we will continue to target all paramilitary groups and disrupt their illegal activities which only serve to blight the communities they operate in.

"These people prey on the most vulnerable members of their communities and try to control them by using fear and violence.

"The PSNI is committed to disrupting their activity and we are working hard to rid our communities of the paramilitary groupings but we need your help.

"I understand that people feel afraid to speak out against these paramilitaries, but police need information from local people - as we will act on information we receive. It may not always be visible and immediate but please be assured that every piece of information is assessed and acted on."

She urged anyone with information to contact the PSNI on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.