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More than one paramilitary-style attack a week this year in the North

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

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

Republican and loyalist groups continued to commit violent criminal attacks against members of their own communities, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said.

She added: "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 by a group of official agencies showed paramilitaries were still heavily involved in extortion, drug dealing and other racketeering, 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement largely ended conflict-era violence.

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

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

  • 64 paramilitary-style attacks
  • 16 shootings casualties
  • 47 victims of assaults
  • 143 Terrorism Act arrests
  • 45 firearms seized
  • 3,157 rounds of ammunition confiscated

Ms 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, the Northern Ireland Secretary said.

Since the start of 2018 there has been one national security attack, compared to five in 2017, four in 2016 and a total of 16 attacks in 2015 and 40 in 2010.

Ms 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, the British secret service MI5 has identified a number of violent dissident republican attack plots; two unsuccessful attacks were attempted and others were disrupted.

The Northern Ireland Secretary said: "This success is in no small measure due to the continued close working between PSNI and MI5, as well as with the authorities in Ireland.

"Each of the main violent dissident republican groups has suffered significant disruption including the loss of personnel and weapons in the past 12 months."

From October 1 2017 - September 30 2018 there have been 143 arrests under the Terrorism Act, with 16 people subsequently charged.

During the same period, 45 firearms, 0.74kg of explosives and 3,157 rounds of ammunition have been seized.