Two men arrested in connection with KKK gang probe
Two men have been arrested in connection with a police probe into a group of people dressed up as Ku Klux Klan members around Halloween in a town in Northern Ireland.
A police investigation was launched after a gang of people posed for photos wearing clothing associated with the hate group outside the Islamic Centre in Newtownards, Co Down.
The incident, which drew widespread condemnation, took place on the evening of October 27.
Images have been beamed around the world, making headlines on CNN international news and in The Washington Post and The Guardian.
A 33-year-old and 36-year-old have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Police conducted a number of planned searches at addresses in the Newtownards area on Thursday morning.
A number of items were seized and have been taken away for further examination.
The 33-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of displaying written material to stir up hatred or arouse fear, and on suspicion of possession of a Class C controlled drug.
The 36-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of displaying written material to stir up hatred or arouse fear.
Both men have since been released on bail pending further enquiries.
Following the incident churches across the community in the north condemned the actions of the group of men.
The Rev Norman McAuley of Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, which is next door to the Islamic centre, appealed to the men to identify themselves.
"If it was just a Halloween prank, then come forward and explain it - hold your hands up and say so," he said.
"Just admit it was a joke that in hindsight was in very poor taste.
"We regard these members of the Islamic community as our neighbours and our Christian faith teaches us to love our neighbours," Rev McAuley added.
"These men stood with wooden crosses and from our point of view the cross is a symbol of the unconditional love of God," he said.
"What we saw at the weekend was sacrilege."
Ards Churches Together has offered its full support to those in the Muslim community who feel intimidated after "symbols of hate" appeared outside their place of worship and "hurt a whole community".
"We stand with you," it added.