UDA: 10 arrested and two charged in relation to Ards and North Down loyalist gang feud

‘11 properties across Newtownards, Bangor, Ballywalter, and Donaghadee have been subject to attack. Many of these were homes of young children’

Police in Newtownards© Kevin Scott

Niamh CampbellBelfast Telegraph

Police in Ards and North Down investigating a series of attacks linked to a feud between loyalist drugs gangs have made 10 arrests and charged two people to court.

Speaking at a media facility in Newtownards earlier today, Superintendent Johnston McDowell said: "This afternoon, we arrested four men in Newtownards.

"The arrests were made after a group of individuals, some of whom were masked, made their way into the Weavers Grange area, after gathering at the courthouse on Regent Street this morning.”

He confirmed that members of drugs gangs involved in the Co Down feud are expelled members of the UDA

"Today’s arrests bring the total number of people arrested to 10. That’s 10 arrested in connection with attacks on homes by rival factions previously linked to the UDA.

"Two men have been charged with offences and have appeared in court.

"To date, 11 properties across Newtownards, Bangor, Ballywalter, and Donaghadee have been subject to attack. Many of these were homes of young children."

He added: "These attacks are completely unacceptable, incredibly reckless and place our communities at grave risk. We don’t want to see any escalation of violence between these gangs, nor do we want anyone in our communities to get hurt.

"Along with high visibility patrols by our Neighbourhood and Local Policing Teams, we are utilising the specialist expertise of our Armed Response units and Tactical Support Group officers and we are working closely with our colleagues in the Paramilitary Crime Task Force to counter the threat posed by these gangs."

The senior police officer also said there is “speculation and misinformation circulating both locally and online, particularly with regard to the presence of masked men in local schools”.

He continued: "I can assure local people that nothing of this nature has been reported to police and thus far there has been no evidence that anything of this nature has taken place at any of our schools.

"We know that our local communities are concerned and worried at this time but please be assured that we are doing everything in our power to put a stop to this senseless criminality. We will continue to provide regular updates to media; through our social media feeds; and through local elected representatives.

"Local officers have been working day and night to keep the people of Ards and North Down safe. And I would ask anyone with information to contact us on 101."

Information can also be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

There were reports on Thursday that children as young as three and four years old had to be rushed into their nursery school as workers were alerted to masked men marching through Newtownards on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a post-primary school had to be locked down after the gang gathered in Newtownards town centre.

The group of up to 30 men then moved towards houses in Weavers Grange where they were intercepted by police.

At Playcentre Manor Court children and staff were in their outside play area around 11am when a neighbour informed them that masked men were heading in their direction and to get the children inside immediately.

A source from the pre-school said: "As we were getting them inside a group of about 10-12 hooded and masked men walked towards the setting.

"They crossed to the other side of the road so were not on our side, but were in full view of some of the children.”

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