Leaders of Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) told BBC Newsnight: “We can do everything the IRA used to do - we have the capability”.

The violent vigilante group murdered one man, Andrew Allen, in February, and has wounded dozens of others in recent years. However, speaking to the BBC current affairs programme, they said they have community support and stores of explosives.

The group took part in a face-to-face interview, but their words on the TV show were spoken by an actor.

The group said, “We don't operate in a vacuum. We have weapons to store, explosives to store, cars to store, so we are helped by the community. Our ability to mount operations shows we have community support.”

The group is made up of former members of the IRA, which has been inactive for years. The main activity of RAAD has been carrying out “punishment” shootings on those in the community involved in drug trafficking.

During the BBC interview they claim they are protecting the community from “parasites” who sold drugs “to little children or vulnerable people."

They continued, “We are fathers, husbands - we live, we go to work, we're just ordinary people, ordinary people with a past. And people say to us: 'There's a problem, help us, you used to be in the IRA.'"

Contrary to RAAD’s statement the number of local people speaking out against the group is rising, including a recent rally in Derry City.

Chief Superintendent Steve Martin said, “They are a small group which makes them difficult to target. They operate in a fairly tight geographical area. They comprise people who were involved in IRA activity and therefore have developed a certain level of ability in carrying out their crimes and evading detection."

Protesters against RAADBelfast Telegraph