Paramilitary group says it plans to disband

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The Independent Online

A Protestant paramilitary group that claimed responsibility for killing a Catholic mailman announced today that it was disbanding.

The Red Hand Defenders – which police believe to be a cover name used by, among others, the Ulster Defense Association, Northern Ireland's largest illegal paramilitary group – said in a statement they were disbanding as of midnight on Wednesday. They said the UDA had asked them to do so.

Paramilitary groups frequently form and disband, changing names as necessary.

The Red Hand Defenders have said they fatally shot mailman Daniel McColgan, 20, at a sorting office in a Protestant area of Belfast on Saturday.

A day earlier, the group announced that it considered Catholic teachers, postal workers and prison officers to be "legitimate targets."

The Ulster Freedom Fighters – another cover name for the UDA – issued a statement on Tuesday distancing itself from the threats and ordering the Red Hand Defenders to stand down within two weeks.

Some were skeptical about the promise to disband.

"They are engaged in a game of smoke and mirrors because this organization has grievously offended against the community in recent days," said Alex Attwood, a lawmaker from the Social Democratic and Labor Party, representing moderate Catholics.

"They are trying to cover their tracks and distance themselves from what is happening because everybody knows the UFF, the UDA, the Red Hand Defenders are the one and the same group of people whatever name they call themselves."