11 April 2006

Plot to expel UDA 'brigadier'

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Rowan
11 April 2006

Paramilitary leaders are still working on a plan to oust one of the UDA's so-called "brigadiers" in Belfast.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSenior members are discussing how to end the 'reign' of Ihab Shoukri, the organisation's alleged leader in north Belfast.

However, sources have told the Belfast Telegraph they are keen to avoid bloodshed.

"The situation has become impossible," a senior source observed.

"It has to be put right, but how that happens, no one is quite sure yet."

The UDA Inner Council - its overall leadership - did not meet yesterday, but will do so "soon".

Shoukri is seen as the most destabilising influence within the organisation since Johnny Adair, and some sources are predicting a similar end in that the north Belfast brigadier will eventually be forced out.

Last night a source posed this question: "How dangerous is it when you corner a rat?"

"Hopefully things can be brought about in a peaceful way, but it all depends on common sense prevailing.

"If you do the right thing the wrong way, it's going to be frowned upon," the source said.

The dilemma for the organisation is how to remove Shoukri and his associates without the use of force.

Last month, the UDA in north Belfast was accused of embarrassing the organisation when police disrupted a planned show of strength by Shoukri's associates.

"We are trying to show everybody that there are genuine people (within the UDA) who want to go where we need to go," a senior paramilitary source said.

"It (the north Belfast situation) has to be sorted out once and for all."

Johnny Adair's associates were driven out of the lower Shankill in February 2003, when he challenged the overall leadership of the UDA.

Now, there are strong hints that the Inner Council will move to assert its authority over Shoukri and those closest to him, and a prediction that the leadership will once again win this latest internal battle.

"Well, they have carried everything else," the source observed - meaning that no individual will be allowed to be bigger than the overall organisation.

The concern is that Shoukri may not go quietly.

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