12 February 2004 Edition
UVF commander stood down over race attacks
The UVF has "stood down" the notorious South Belfast commander who is alleged to have sanctioned the recent spate of racially-motivated attacks in the Village area of Belfast.
The move comes after UVF denials of any involvement in the ongoing racist campaign and amid growing speculation that race may not have been the sole motivating factor in the attacks.
It has been suggested that the assaults may be linked to a recent court case in which a number of individuals connected to the unionist paramilitary group were due to stand trial on extortion charges. A Chinese businessman was due to testify against those charged earlier this year, but the charges had to be dropped when the businessman suddenly withdrew his evidence.
It is understood that the UVF leader who was "demoted" is one of a number of people to be "disciplined" following an internal probe by the loyalist group.
Responding to the reports, Anti-Racism Network spokesperson Sara Boyce said her group will now be seeking guarantees that this would mean an end to the racist attacks on minority ethnic communities in South Belfast.
"The challenge now," says Boyce, "is for ordinary people and leaders in the Village to work together with minority ethnic groups and others to build respect for cultural diversity."