By Michael McHugh, PA
Paramilitaries threatening violence during the Covid-19 emergency should be ashamed of themselves, a senior detective in Northern Ireland said.
They are taking a reckless risk with people's lives as healthcare workers tackle the pandemic, PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Martin Cummings said.
He added: "We are aware that people hiding under the convenient flags of various so called paramilitary groupings have been issuing threats to those living within their communities.
"Let me be clear that this has to stop immediately.
"It is wrong on so many levels and particularly during the coronavirus pandemic when people are adjusting to a different way of life.
"Threats create fear within communities who are already trying to cope with the pressures of the pandemic."
He said those issuing threats should also think very hard about the impact on frontline health service workers who are already working tirelessly to save people's lives.
"Paramedics, nurses, doctors and all other NHS and care workers need to be allowed to focus all their efforts on treating and saving people with Covid-19 and other unavoidable injuries and health conditions.
"To add any more stress to their already stretched resource is not only selfish but taking a reckless risk with people's lives.
"Individuals issuing threats of violence should be ashamed of themselves.
"It is a strong symbol of the contempt they feel for their own communities and a powerful indicator that they do not care about protecting communities but only about exploiting them and securing power and grip for gangs and gangsters."
The PSNI HM Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency have established the paramilitary crime task force to tackle criminality linked to paramilitarism as part of the Stormont Executive's action plan on tackling paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime.