Belfast Telegraph

Major dissident republican crackdown shows we're not just out to get loyalists: Police

By Jonathan Bell

Police said their major operation against the Belfast INLA demonstrates their commitment to cracking down on all paramilitaries and not just loyalists.

Over 200 police were involved in searches at 12 properties across Belfast, Lisburn, Crumlin and Newtownabbey. Five were arrested with police saying more are planned as the operation continued into Friday evening.

The offices of the Irish Republican Socialist Party on the Falls Road were raided as part of the operation. It described the operation as a "publicity exercise" designed to show the PSNI was treating all paramilitaries the same.

Police said the operation was linked to similar raids in Londonderry earlier this year and specifically targeted the INLA's involvement in extortion and prostitution.

 INLA a priority for the paramilitary crime task force. ACC Martin

Speaking at a press conference, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said the operation was the largest the paramilitary crime task force had ever undertaken since its inception in 2017. It involves officers from the PSNI, National Crime Agency and HMRC.

In 2010 the INLA called a ceasefire saying it was dedicated to entirely peaceful means. Police, however say it has been embroiled in criminal activity.

ACC Martin said: "The October 2015 assessment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland by PSNI and MI5 at the request of the secretary of state stated very clearly INLA structures remained in existence and its members continued to be involved in criminality; including extortion, paramilitary style attacks and violent acts of intimidation against people alleged to be involved in drug dealing.

"These activities were assessed to have a significant and negative impact on local communities and this made the INLA a priority for the paramilitary crime task force."

ACC Martin appealed for any business owner subjected to extortion to contact his officers.

"We will take action."

There is not and will not be any hiding place for paramilitaries

He continued: "There has been a misconception in some quarters the work of paramilitary crime task force is focused only on loyalist paramilitaries.

"Today's policing activity and a related operation in Derry-Londonderry in March clearly demonstrates that our work is to remove paramilitarism from all our communities across Northern Ireland.

"During the last financial year the paramilitary crime task force has conducted 193 searches made 47 arrests in which 44 people were charged or reported to the prosecution service.

"There is not and will not be any hiding place for paramilitaries."

"These criminal gangs destroy people's lives and harm out communities and we are committed to tackling them head on so communities and businesses can prosper without threat or fear."

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