UK drug gangs armed with terrifying military weapons including submachine gun

Drugs gangs have access to a terrifying arsenal of firearms, a Daily Star Sunday investigation can reveal.

Gun runners are smuggling in “military grade” automatic weapons to arm top-tier crime groups.

The deadly shipments – which also include grenades and explosives – are being brought in from America, Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland.

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The gangs who buy them are behind a wave of violence in North West cities including Manchester and Liverpool, where nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel was shot dead in her home.

Meanwhile lower-level street gangs are raiding farmhouses in rural areas and robbing licensed owners to steal shotguns to order.

And dealers are buying blank firing pistols and converting them into deadly weapons as they look to muscle in to the multimillion pound trade in heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

A source close to the trade in illegal weapons said: “There’s a network of major criminal gangs in Liverpool, Manchester and Salford – interlinked criminals who often do bits of work together – who can access military grade hardware. I’m talking about submachine guns, automatic weapons, Glock semi-automatic pistols – even explosives and grenades.”

Our investigators also uncovered a thriving trade on encrypted messenger sites like Telegram, where Glock pistols are imported in parts for as little as £500 and posted to UK addresses.

There were 4,099 firearm discharges recorded in the 12 months to March last year – 536 were linked to shotguns, 2,125 to handguns and 1,438 to imitation firearms.

The Encrochat sting, in which police hacked the encypted phones of thousands of major criminals, has revealed how organised crime gangs from Liverpool and Manchester are teaming up for gangland hits, international drug deals, robberies and gun running.

Three quarters of the messages about gun crime in the UK had links to Liverpool and the North West. Our source said: “Most of them have connections with former soldiers in places like Northern Ireland who have the access and can bring the hardware in.”

They added: “An Uzi or Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun will then go on the street for around £5,000. It’s a lucrative market.”

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In a crackdown in Salford and Merseyside police found sawn offs, semi-automatic handguns, grenades and a submachine gun.

Further raids by National Crime Agency officers uncovered AK47 assault rifles, an Uzi and Skorpion submachine guns.

One Skorpion submachine gun found in a house in Wythenshawe, Manchester, was used in 17 gangland shootings in Manchester and Liverpool.

Former undercover cop Shay Doyle infiltrated top-level organised crime gangs and gun runners in the region.

He said: “The higher up the ladder a criminal is, the better the hardware they can acquire.”

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