Ulster Defense Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA/UFF)

Description

The Ulster Defense Association (UDA), the largest loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, was formed in 1971 as an umbrella organization for loyalist paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). Today, the UFF constitutes almost the entire UDA membership. The UDA/UFF declared a series of cease-fires between 1994 and 1998. In September 2001, the UDA/UFF’s Inner Council withdrew its support for Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement. The following month, after a series of murders, bombings, and street violence, the British Government ruled the UDA/UFF’s cease-fire defunct. The dissolution of the organization’s political wing, the Ulster Democratic Party, soon followed. In January 2002, however, the UDA created the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) to serve in a similar capacity.

Activities

The UDA/UFF has evolved into a criminal organization involved in drug trafficking and other moneymaking criminal activities. In January 2002, the UDA/UFF called for an end to sectarian violence; in the preceding months, the UDA had been blamed for more than 300 bombings and shootings against Catholics in Belfast. Nevertheless, the UDA/ UFF continued its attacks against Catholics, as well as those seen as a threat to its criminal enterprises. The UDA/UFF admitted responsibility for the murder of a Catholic postman in January, an attack also claimed by the Red Hand Defenders (RHD), a group used as a cover name by some UDA/UFF elements. The UDA also was blamed for a drive-by shooting that wounded three Catholics in September. Later in the year, three deaths were attributed to the group’s escalating feud with the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). Johnny Adair, the only person ever convicted of directing terrorism in Northern
Ireland, was a leading UDA member until September when he was expelled from the group because of his growing ties to the LVF. In 2000, a feud between the UDA/UFF and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) resulted in the deaths of seven men.

Strenght

Estimates vary from 2,000 to 5,000 members, with several hundred active in paramilitary operations.

Location

Northern Ireland.

External Aid

Probably obtains weapons from abroad.