This dissident loyalist group was formed during the Drumcree crisis of summer 1998 from among dissident Ulster Freedom Fighter and Loyalist Volunteer Force members.
It carried out a bomb blast that led to the death of a Portadown policeman in September that year, before murdering a Catholic man in north Belfast a month later. Other acts of violence, such as a pipe bomb attack in February 1999, were fairly crude.
The group was put on the proscribed list the following month, but within two weeks it showed a new level of ability in the car bomb murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson in Lurgan.
There has been confusion between the Red Hand Defenders and the Orange Volunteers, with both sometimes claiming to have carried out the same attack.