Northern Ireland

Nine people arrested in Northern Ireland and Manchester over drugs

Nine people have been arrested in Northern Ireland and Manchester by detectives working to stop the circulation of illegal drugs.

Police said those arrested are believed to be involved in the "higher echelons" of a crime gang bringing cocaine and cannabis to Northern Ireland.

Three men and a woman, aged between 30 and 44, were arrested in Londonderry.

Two men, aged 42 and 53, were arrested in Belfast and a 48-year-old man was arrested in Newtownards, County Down.

In Manchester two men, aged 32 and 39, are being held for questioning.

It is understood they will be brought to Northern Ireland.

Police said 10 searches had been carried out at locations including Manchester, Derry, Belfast, Newry and Newtownards.

Documents, cash, phones, jewellery and small quantities of suspected drugs have been seized.

Detectives from the Organised Crime Branch worked with police from Greater Manchester, the National Crime Agency, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and Police Scotland on the investigation.

Det Insp Tom McClure from the Organised Crime Branch, said the arrests were the latest in a long-running investigation.

"Over the past year, we have made a number of major drugs seizures in Northern Ireland amounting to more than £2m," he said.

"Nine people have already been charged in relation to these incidents."

Det Insp McClure said Tuesday's arrests involved individuals believed to be at the "higher echelons of an organised crime group" bringing cocaine and cannabis to Northern Ireland.

"Two of the seizures made over the past year were in Derry and our enquiries lead us to believe there is a strong Derry link to this criminal activity. But it is not confined to the north-west," he said.

"Seizures over the past year were also made in Antrim, Belfast, Larne and Hillsborough.

"The activities of the group are located not only in Northern Ireland but also in the Manchester area where two key suspects were arrested."