One of Northern Ireland's largest paramilitary groups has completely disarmed itself, marking a milestone in the troubled region's peace process.
The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) is the largest and last loyalist paramilitary group to lay down its arms after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which largely put an end to three decades of violence in the region.
"Today the leadership of the Ulster Defence Association can confirm that all weaponry under its control has been put verifiably beyond use," said UDA political representative Frankie Gallagher.
The disarmament was verified by two independent witnesses, the former Church of Ireland primate, Robin Eames, and the former chairman of the Ulster Bank, George Quigley. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen welcomed the UDA's announcement as "a further significant milestone in the peace process."
The loyalist Protestant UDA was responsible for about 400 murders between 1971 and 2001 in its fight with the Catholic Irish Republican Army, who wanted Northern Ireland to merge with the Republic of Ireland in the south.
Editor: Trinity Hartman