Five men arrested over criminal activities of the INLA

The operation involved over 200 police officers

PSNI, IRA, ISIS, Northern Ireland, children, Mark Lindsay

Image: Police Federation for Northern Ireland

Updated: 18.00

Police in Northern Ireland say five people have been arrested following a major operation focusing on the INLA.

The PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force carried out its largest operation to date on Friday, with over 200 police officers supported by colleagues from Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) and the British HM Revenue and Customs service.

Five people were arrested - aged 33, 41, 48, 49 and 51 - with further arrests planned.

They have all been taken into police custody where they are currently being questioned by detectives.

Twelve properties were also searched in north, south and west Belfast, Lisburn, Crumlin and Newtownabbey in relation to the criminal activities of Belfast INLA.

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.

"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."

He added: "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."

"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."