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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Crack Down Following Violence in Northern Ireland

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Police raided a dozen homes at dawn and arrested eight Protestant hard-liners Tuesday in a crackdown on the Ulster Defense Association, Northern Ireland's largest outlawed group.

Detectives were interrogating the seven men and a woman at three police stations. Under Britain's anti-terrorism laws, they can be held for up to a week before being charged or released.

Police did not immediately reveal whether they found any weapons during their raids in the predominantly Protestant town of Ballymoney and the Protestant east side of Londonderry, Northern Ireland's second-largest city.

The incident came a day after British explosives experts dismantled a car bomb in Belfast after police shadowing suspected IRA dissidents shot one man and arrested another.

Leaders of the two major Catholic-supported parties called on police to explain why they opened fire on apparently unarmed men.

"We would question why it was necessary to shoot unarmed people, particularly when there was heavy surveillance. There was the possibility of intervening without shooting anybody," said Mitchel McLaughlin, chairman of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party.

Since taking command of the Northern Ireland police in September, Chief Constable Hugh Orde has pledged to suppress the UDA and other outlawed paramilitary groups, all of which run competing criminal rackets, including the sale of drugs.

Orde, who is leading an effort to build Catholic support for his force, established a special detective squad to gather evidence against the UDA and two smaller anti-Catholic groups -- the Ulster Volunteer Force and Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Last month a police raid in a Protestant suburb of Belfast uncovered a UDA weapons dump containing 10 guns, two pipe bombs and a booby-trap bomb designed to kill someone as they opened a door.