Arrests made in INLA crime probe as police blame group for increase in attacks
Operation linked to Martin McElkerney funeral shots
Police blamed the INLA for an increase in paramilitary attacks in the north west area of Northern Ireland.
It comes after two men were arrested as part of a police investigation into the criminal activities of the group.
A 19-year-old was arrested under the Terrorism Act and the Misuse of Drugs Act in the Strabane area, while a 57-year-old was held in the Galliagh area of Derry and also under the Terrorism Act.
Both were taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning. The 19-year-old was later released.
Police also conducted three searches seizing a number of items including a large quantity of documentation, mobile phones and electronic devices.
Detective Inspector Tom McClure said the operation was part of an ongoing investigation into the criminality of the INLA in the north west.
He also linked the police operation to the firing of shots over the coffin of INLA man Martin McElkerney in May.
"This group are a service priority for the Paramilitary Crime Task Force due to the level of threat, risk and harm they pose to our communities, and the breadth and depth of their criminality," said the police officer.
"INLA in the North West are involved in violence, extortion and the supply of controlled drugs, illicit cigarettes and counterfeit goods and this strand of the investigation looks to take action against those directing this criminality and money laundering."
He said that the group were running roughshod over the area.
“They claim to be protecting their communities by shooting people who they accuse of being involved in crime but the reality is that they use violence and intimidation to control and exploit their communities," Detective Inspector McClure said.
"Their real motivation for using extreme brutality is to try and ensure that no one speaks out or encroaches on what they see as ‘their patch’, where they try to run organised criminal rackets solely for their own financial gain. Sometimes they even shoot people who they feel do not show them ‘respect’ or who they simply do not like.
"The actions of this paramilitary group of thugs will do nothing but condemn communities to an escalated level of criminality, undermining the good work of others in the community who are trying to improve the lives and prospects of those in the local area."
Detective Inspector McClure appealed for anyone with information about the INLA's activities to come forward.
"I know that there are many people in the local community who are affected by INLA’s drug dealing and violence and they support our ongoing efforts. However, I recognise and understand that there are some who may be reluctant to report crime to the PSNI for various reasons," he said.
"I would like to reassure everyone in the community that the PSNI will investigate all reports of crime and anti-social behaviour lawfully, fairly and proportionately, and where there is evidence bring this before the courts."
Police can be contacted on 101 or information provided through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Belfast Telegraph Digital