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Loyalists 'decommission arms'.

Summary: Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have started to decommission their weapons.

Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have started to decommission their weapons.

In another milestone for the peace process, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is understood to have decommissioned a major weapons cache, with more disarmament moves by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Red Hand Commando (RHC).

The loyalist groups killed hundreds of people during the decades of violence, with the UVF responsible for murders in the mid-1960s which marked the beginning of the Troubles.

Republican and nationalist politicians expressed hopes that the news - expected to be formally confirmed in an IICD report in August - will mark the beginning of the end of loyalist paramilitary activity.

The British and Irish Governments welcomed the destruction of weaponry but said they had yet to receive official confirmation of the move from the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said: "If these reports were to be confirmed, what we would see would be a seismic transformation within loyalism."

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said: "I think it is a step change which shows a degree of organisation and commitment that perhaps we have not seen before."

Senior Sinn Fein representative Gerry Kelly said: "The IRA dealt with the issue of arms in a decisive way four years ago.

"If these reports prove to be true and the UVF have now followed suit then that would obviously be a welcome move. It is also important that other armed organisations go down this road."

The UVF carried out the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974 which caused the largest single loss of life in the conflict, killing 33 people.

The group killed 550 people during the Troubles, while the UDA, which also operated under the flag of convenience of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), claimed 431 lives.

The Red Hand Commando, a splinter group allied to the UVF, killed 19 people.

The UDA was formed in 1971 and is the largest paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, once boasting tens of thousands of members.

Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Independent Television News Limited (ITN)
Date:Jun 19, 2009
Words:371
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