Officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, supported by local police and criminal justice partners, carried out a significant operation into suspected paramilitary activity linked to the East Belfast UVF over the last two days.
Four men aged 34, 47, 49 and 51 were arrested and are currently at Musgrave Serious Crime Suite being questioned by detectives.
Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Hill, Head of Organised Crime Branch, said: “Starting yesterday and running into today, officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force, with local police and partners, conducted a major operation into the suspected criminal paramilitary activities of the East Belfast UVF.
“The long running pre-planned operation into East Belfast UVF involved searches of three residential properties and one business premises in the Lower Newtownards Road area of East Belfast.
“During the searches we found eight firearms, a large quantity of assorted ammunition, three pipe bombs which we suspect are viable, balaclavas and UVF flags and emblems. Two vehicles were also seized.
“The reckless storage of these explosive devices meant local police had to close the roads and evacuate residents in two separate areas of the lower Newtownards Road last night, causing disruption for local people trying to go about their business. We thank the public for their patience.
“The storing of these weapons in residential areas demonstrates the reckless actions of paramilitaries who do not care who they put at risk.
“East Belfast UVF continues to be involved in a range of paramilitary crime, including violence, intimidation, money laundering and drug dealing – causing harm to their own communities.
“The Paramilitary Crime Task Force remains committed to the relentless pursuit of East Belfast UVF to tackle the harm they pose to local people.
“I would appeal to anyone with any information about paramilitaries and their criminal activity to contact police on 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland, HM Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency established the Paramilitary Crime Task Force to tackle criminality linked to paramilitary activity as part of the Executive's action plan on Tackling Paramilitary Activity, Criminality, and Organised Crime.