Belfast Telegraph

Paramilitary attacks down with 64 recorded

Paramilitary gangs carried out on average more than one attack a week in Northern Ireland this year, the Government has said
Paramilitary gangs carried out on average more than one attack a week in Northern Ireland this year, the Government has said

By Michael McHugh

Paramilitary gangs carried out on average more than one attack a week in Northern Ireland this year, the Government has said.

Most involved assaults but there were 16 casualties of shootings and one death, official figures showed.

Despite this, the total number of attacks has decreased since last year.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley said: "The hypocrisy of paramilitary-linked criminals claiming to act to defend their communities from anti-social behaviour and drug dealing, while at the same time profiting from this activity, is not lost on affected communities.

"They are targeting the most vulnerable members in their communities as they try to exert control and fear."

An Organised Crime Taskforce report published earlier this year showed paramilitaries were still heavily involved in extortion, drug dealing and other racketeering.

So far this year there have been 64 violent criminal attacks, Mrs Bradley said.

A total of 16 casualties resulted from shootings and 47 from assaults. The other victim died.

However, the figures indicate a fall in paramilitary violence.

In 2017 there were 94 violent criminal attacks in the same period, including 27 shootings. Mrs Bradley added: "This Government continues strongly to support ongoing efforts to tackle paramilitarism and organised crime in Northern Ireland through the delivery of the commitments made in the Executive's action plan on tackling paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime."

Terrorism by dissident republicans opposed to the peace process is classified as a national security attack by the Government, but law enforcement pressure has reduced the number of such attacks, Mrs Bradley said.

Since the start of this year there has been one national security attack. There were five in 2017, four in 2016 and a total of 16 attacks in 2015 and 40 in 2010.

Mrs Bradley said: "Although there has been a reduction in the overall number of national security attacks in recent years, vigilance in the face of this continuing threat remains essential and the threat level remains severe."

Since October 2017, MI5 has identified violent dissident republican plots; two unsuccessful attacks were attempted and others were disrupted.

The Secretary of State said: "This success is in no small measure due to the continued close working between PSNI and MI5. Each of the main dissident republican groups has suffered significant disruption including the loss of personnel and weapons in the past 12 months."

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