Newtownards bus hijacking carried out by ‘local faction’ of UVF, police officer says

Newtownards bus hijacking carried out by ‘local faction’ of UVF, police officer says

The hijacking and burning of a bus in Co Down earlier this month was carried out by members of a “local faction” of the UVF, a senior police officer has said.

Two masked and armed men boarded a bus in the Abbot Drive area of Newtownards early on the morning of Monday, November 1st, and poured fuel over the vehicle before setting it alight.

The driver managed to get off the vehicle unharmed but was left badly shaken by the incident. No passengers were on board at the time.

The incident has been linked to anger among loyalists at the Northern Ireland Protocol creating a border in the Irish Sea, distancing the region from the rest of the UK, as it happened on the date set by the DUP to pull down the Executive if progress had not been made on the post-Brexit arrangements.

DUP ministers remain in post while talks between the UK and EU continue.

Further disorder followed, with rioting after an anti-protocol protest at the Lanark Way peace line in west Belfast, and another bus burned out in Newtownabbey on Sunday November 7.

On Friday morning, four men were arrested after PSNI searches of four properties in the Newtownards and Bangor areas.

The men, aged 36, 41, 48 and 55, have been taken to a police station for questioning.

Det Chief Supt Ian Saunders said officers believe the Newtownards bus attack was carried out by members of a local faction of the UVF.

“Our investigation into this disturbing incident continues alongside an investigation into the more recent hijacking and destruction of a bus in Newtownabbey on Sunday 7th November 2021,” he said.

“Both of these violent and destructive attacks have had an impact on those people who were directly involved in the incidents and also the wider community.

“I appeal to anyone with information about either incident, particularly anyone with mobile phone or dashcam footage which they think may help our investigation, to contact detectives on 101.

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