09 April 2006

Terror gang split over drug claims

Sunday Life

Stephen Breen and Alan Murray
09 April 2006

TENSIONS within the UDA were rising last night after death-threats were issued to three of the organisation's senior members.

Veteran loyalist Sammy Duddy, Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) spokesman John Bunting and a third top loyalist are at the centre of sinister threats from the UDA's north Belfast brigade.

The threats were made after the trio told the UDA's ruling inner council that the UDA leadership in north Belfast was involved in drug-dealing, extortion and criminality.

The trio asked the inner council to expel the north Belfast leadership, which includes Ihab Shoukri and Alan McClean.

But their plan backfired when they were expelled from the organisation.

Although the UDA's brigades in Londonderry, east, south and west Belfast believed the trio's claims, the south-east Antrim brigadier objected to action being taken against the north Belfast leadership.

Sunday Life understands that the south-east Antrim brigade works closely with north Belfast in racketeering.

Shoukri is understood to have turned up at last Friday's meeting of the inner council with a 40-strong gang and denied the UDA in north Belfast was involved in criminality.

Threats were also issued to three brigadiers at the meeting by a senior member of the north Belfast UDA.

It is understood the inner council needs unanimous agreement before taking action against individual leaders.

The south-east Antrim brigadier also claimed the inner council was not allowed to investigate the business of individual brigade areas.

Said one senior loyalist source: "The majority of people in the north Belfast UDA want a leadership change, but they are afraid to speak out.

"They see the current leadership as being worse than (former east Belfast UDA brigadier) Jim Gray and tensions are extremely high at the moment over the whole thing.

"Sammy (Duddy) and John (Bunting) spoke out, but not all of their evidence was heard because the meeting was disrupted by Shoukri and his gang.

"The expulsions took place because of a technicality and because there wasn't unanimous support to get Shoukri and his men out.

"Four of the brigades are opposed to the criminality in north Belfast and it's up to them to sort themselves out - or face the consequences."

No one from the UPRG was available for comment last night.

sbreen@belfast telegraph.co.uk

there is that much coke in N.Belfast the kids think it snows there all year round.
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