Ulster Defense Association says it has disarmed

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DUBLIN (AP) — The major British Protestant paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Defense Association, says it has fully disarmed — finally meeting the key requirement of the province’s 1998 peace accord.

The outlawed UDA killed more than 200 Catholic civilians but has largely observed a cease-fire since 1994. The group previously refused to surrender its arms — chiefly guns and grenades — citing the continuing threat from Irish Republican Army dissidents based in Catholic areas.

UDA leaders declared the group’s full disarmament Wednesday in a statement. The leader of Northern Ireland’s disarmament commission, retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain, was expected to confirm the move soon. He previously oversaw the IRA’s disarmament from 2001 to 2005.