Belfast police exploring link between racist crime and loyalist paramilitaries

Police in Belfast were questioning three suspects on Tuesday night after finding a gun and a quantity of drugs during raids in the east of the city.

The arrest of two men and a woman in east Belfast was an part of a Police Service of Northern Ireland operation to counter a rise in racist attacks over the last few weeks.

There have been at least five recorded incidents of racial intimidation in east Belfast including a young Roma cyclist being showered with a bag of excrement on the Newtonards Road a fortnight ago.

A PSNI spokesman said the men aged 43 and 41 and a 41-year-old woman were detained in the Castlereagh area of east Belfast earlier on Tuesday.

The police spokesman added: “Detectives working as part of Operation Reiner have conducted searches in the Castlereagh area as part of their ongoing investigations into the recent increase of hate crimes being committed across Belfast.

“During the course of these searches, officers recovered a firearm, ammunition and a small quantity of suspected drugs. Two males and a female have been arrested by virtue of Section 41 of the Terrorism Act and they are currently assisting police with their enquiries.”

Given that the arrests were carried out under the Terrorism Act this indicates that detectives are exploring a possible link between the racial violence and loyalist paramilitary groups in the area specificially the Ulster Volunteer Force.

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