29/06/2009

UVF Guns, Ammo And Bombs 'Beyond Use'

The haul of weapons decommissioned by the UVF and Red Hand Commandos included guns, ammunition and explosives, it has been revealed.

However, independent observers - who described the cache as a "major decommissioning event" - have not said how many weapons were actually given up.

Following Saturday's public disarmament announcement by the two loyalist paramilitary groups, the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) confirmed it had overseen the process, which began on June 12.

In a statement, a spokesman for the commission said: "The IICD can confirm it has witnessed a major decommissioning event involving arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices belonging to the UVF and Red Hand Commando.
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"The leaderships of both organisations have advised us that the weapons and material put beyond use in our presence include all the arms under their control."

There has been widespread recognition of the move, which NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said was "a cause for real celebration".

Hillary Clinton, America's foremost diplomat, paid tribute to the work of Unionist in what she described as a "courageous step".

Three witnesses were present at the UVF decommissioning process.

The body monitoring events said the UDA's disarmament is ongoing.

"The IICD has witnessed a decommissioning event involving arms belonging to the UDA and the Ulster Freedom Fighters," said a spokesman.

"This is a significant move and we look forward to completing the process of putting all UDA/UFF arms beyond use at an early opportunity."

It remains unclear how many weapons were destroyed, or how and where it happened.

(PR/JM)

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