UDA drug war 'could spill over' as violence escalates in North Down

Two UDA drug gangs are at war over territory in North Down, with concerns violence could spill on to the streets or even end in death.

On Monday night, there were petrol bomb attacks within 10 minutes of each other in Bangor and Newtownards.

Alliance MLA Nick Mathison said there has been significant police presence on the streets in response to the spate of attacks.

"My understanding is that there have been at least nine incidents involving petrol bombs and attempted pipe bomb attacks and also a couple of attempted hijackings.

“The public in Newtownards are rightly concerned around what is actually going on at the moment," said Mr Mathison.

While police have increased their visibility in the area, there are concerns over how long they can keep this up in the long term.

Belfast Telegraph's crime correspondent, Allison Morris, told UTV: "We're talking about huge numbers of people taking to the streets at night and the PSNI are I think struggling in order to resource the sheer numbers of police required because it's being spread across a geographical area.

“You're maybe having an attack in Newtownards, then you're having an attack in Bangor, you're having an attack in Ballywalter, you're having an attack in Donaghadee and it's impossible for them to know where the next attack is going to take place."

Police are currently trying to negotiate with the crime gangs to put an end to the violence, but neither is budging.

"The problem that exists is, for these two groups there's too much at stake - there's a lot of money at stake, a lot of territory at stake, neither one wants to concede the ground and therefore we're only going to see this escalating further and unfortunately there's a very real possibility that a life could be lost," said Allison.

No one has been injured in the attacks so far but there are fears this could happen.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact them or Crimestoppers anonymously, as they try to stop tensions from spilling over.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.