Five men have been arrested in a major police crack-down on the criminal activities of the INLA.
More than 200 officers were involved in raids and arrest operations carried out across greater Belfast under the auspices of the Stormont established Paramilitary Crime Task Force.
Four suspected victims of human trafficking were found in a house in south Belfast. The four Romanian women have been taken to a police care suite.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland, The National Crime Agency (NCA) and Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs (HMRC) took part in Friday’s series of swoops against the supposedly on-ceasefire Irish National Liberation Army.
The west Belfast offices of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the political wing of the INLA, was one of 12 properties raided in various parts of Belfast, Lisburn, Crumlin and Newtownabbey.
The suspects detained are aged 33, 41, 48, 49 and 51. The police said further arrests were planned.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: “This search and arrest operation is the largest conducted by the Task Force to date and is the result of an investigation that has been under way for a significant period of time into the group’s criminality and specifically its involvement in extortion and prostitution.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who believes they or their business are the subject of extortion to contact officers at the Paramilitary Crime Task Force on our 101 non-emergency number. We want to hear from you and, as today’s action demonstrates, where we can secure evidence of these suspected offences we will take action.
“There has been a misconception in some quarters that the work of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force is focused only on loyalist paramilitaries. Today’s policing activity and a related operation in Derry/Londonderry in March clearly demonstrate that our work is to remove paramilitarism from all our communities across Northern Ireland.”
ACC Martin added: “There is not and will not be any hiding place for paramilitaries. These criminal gangs destroy people’s lives and harm our communities and we are committed to tackling them head on so that communities and businesses can prosper without any threat or fear.
“Paramilitaries exploit their own communities and others through various types of criminality, including extortion and prostitution, and they are ruthless in their methods including so-called paramilitary style attacks. They exploit vulnerability, including younger citizens who can so easily be drawn in. They destroy lives and harm the communities they so often claim to represent.
“The majority of people in our communities want to make the transition away from that sort of control and intimidation. This means that the response to the paramilitaries needs to fall to everyone.”
The IRSP described the operations as “political policing”.