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Inside the INLA - Crime machine bent on a reign of terror

- Republican gang behind brutal attack on man in alleyway

- Group continues to recruit members and source weapons

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The alley in Westrock Gardens where the paramilitary attack was carried out earlier this month

The alley in Westrock Gardens where the paramilitary attack was carried out earlier this month

�INPHO/Declan Roughan

Sean Carlin

Sean Carlin

Police carrying out searches at the IRSP office on the Falls Road in April

Police carrying out searches at the IRSP office on the Falls Road in April

PSNI officers raid the home of Sean Carlin last month

PSNI officers raid the home of Sean Carlin last month

Stephen Carson who was murdered in 2016 after stating publicly he was under threat from the INLA

Stephen Carson who was murdered in 2016 after stating publicly he was under threat from the INLA

DS Singleton

DS Singleton

PA

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The alley in Westrock Gardens where the paramilitary attack was carried out earlier this month

The victim of an INLA 'punishment' shooting met his attackers voluntarily after being told he would be murdered if he refused.

Doctors now fear the man aged in his 30s may never walk again after having two bullets lodged in both knees.

The deliberate crippling was meant as a warning to anyone thinking of challenging the INLA, which is now regarded by police as one of Northern Ireland's biggest crime gangs.

The Belfast Telegraph today lifts the lid on the inner-workings of the organisation, which continues to rake in millions of pounds of public funding through arms-length bodies despite being up to its neck in drug dealing, extortion and shootings.

We can reveal that:

● The INLA was behind last weekend's crippling of a man in west Belfast after accusing him of attacking the home of a member;

● It is sourcing weapons from Dublin, including firearms from the Kinahan drugs cartel;

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● The terror gang is continuing to recruit members, with its Lower Falls unit filled with former death drivers and burglars;

● The organisation is effectively split between two groups in Belfast and Londonderry/Strabane, which police say only come together for "common purposes".

Due to its involvement in serious crime the INLA is a major focus for the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, an elite new police unit set up to disrupt active terrorist groups.

In April heavily armed officers raided the offices of its IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) political group, seizing computers and documents.

One IRSP supporter was later charged with brothel keeping and extortion.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton - the public face of the task force - told the Belfast Telegraph that the INLA remains a "priority investigation".

Confirming that it carried out last weekend's shooting in west Belfast, he said: "We believe this was a punishment-style shooting by appointment carried out by the INLA, and that it was connected to an attack on the home of someone involved with the group."

What DS Singleton would not comment on is that the target of the house attack was ex-INLA prisoner Sean 'Carlo' Carlin. The 39-year-old leads the terror gang in west Belfast and is seen as its enforcer - someone who makes threatening extortion demands on its behalf.

He played no actual role in last weekend's shooting by appointment, but the gunmen were responding to an incident in which an attempt was made to smash a window at his Springfield Road home and put an Ulster flag inside.

The attack was captured on Carlin's CCTV system, leading the INLA to easily identify who was involved.

Two men accused of playing a role were told to present themselves at an alley behind Westrock Gardens on the night of Saturday, August 4. Only one did, and he is now lying in a hospital bed contemplating the real possibility of never walking again.

This newspaper understands the second man is in hiding in England under an INLA death threat.

Although on ceasefire for more than 20 years and having decommissioned some of its weapons in 2010, the terror gang has no qualms about reaching for the gun.

Before convicted criminal Stephen Carson (28) was murdered in 2016, he went public to say he was under threat from the West Belfast INLA, which has been linked to around a dozen kneecappings in the past three years.

This is a fact not lost on DS Bobby Singleton, who added: "The INLA remains wedded to crime. It operates as an organised crime gang.

"The INLA is sourcing weaponry from the South and remains involved in the extortion of legitimate business and illegitimate businesses, including the taxing of criminals and drug dealers."

Drug dealers wanting to sell heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis in nationalist areas of Belfast are forced to pay tax to the INLA or risk being shot.

Among those who opted for this were jailed cocaine baron Dessie Lindsay (52), who handed over tens of thousands of pounds to the terror gang for protection after dissident group ONH (Oglaigh na hEireann) put a bomb under his car.

The INLA is also known to be currently protecting a major north Belfast-based drug dealer, aged in his 50s, who is a former member of the Provisional IRA.

Most of the organisation's extortion in the city is carried out by a group of former death drivers and house breakers from the Divis area. Among this number is a talented boxer aged in his 30s who, like his boss Sean 'Carlo' Carlin, is viewed as a hard man.

They are supposed to account to a group of INLA veterans who are now members of its IRSP political wing and who are tasked with steering it in a community-based direction.

But this militant younger brood pay little heed to Belfast-based old-timers like Marty McElkerney, convicted of the bomb murders of a British soldier and two children, and Gerry Foster who was previously jailed for a fire-bomb attack. Recent political recruits like Ciaran 'Pip' Cunningham, jailed for a decade for his involvement in a Real IRA intelligence gathering operation, have been unable to stem the INLA's increasing descent into criminality in the city.

The situation in Derry City and Strabane - the stronghold of the INLA's second faction - is somewhat better, with the group under the control of veterans Willie Gallagher, a convicted bomber, and Martin McMonagle, jailed for plotting a bomb campaign in England, playing prominent roles in the IRSP.

Unlike its Belfast counterparts the organisation in the north west is less overtly involved in crime.

Its political wing has two 'independent' elected members, Paul Gallagher and Warren Robinson, on Derry City and Strabane Council.

Conceding that some within the INLA are trying to move the terror gang in a political direction, Mr Singleton said: "There is some effort within the INLA to direct it towards community initiatives, but that is from a small number within the IRSP. The majority of INLA members remain involved in crime.

"There is no central control of leadership. There are two groups, Belfast and Derry/Strabane, who sometimes get together for a common interest. In reality the INLA's focus is on criminal activity for personal gain and not on advancing a political cause."

In recent weeks the spotlight has fallen on the huge amounts of funding allocated to the INLA's Teach na Failte ex-prisoners group.

This intensified after exclusive reports from our sister paper Sunday Life on £250,000 donations from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust were carried in The Times newspaper.

There are now demands for INLA-linked bodies to be stripped of all funding given its continued involvement in crime.


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