27 May 2006

Analysis: UDA's bosses vote to expel north Belfast boss from 'inner council'

Belfast Telegraph

Brian Rowan
27 May 2006

The UDA command - its 'inner council' - has moved to dismiss Ihab Shoukri from its leadership.

The organisation's most senior leaders met in the city on Thursday to discuss their recent investigation into the alleged criminal activities of the Shoukri brothers, Andre and Ihab, and their closest associate.

Its decision was immediately delivered to the paramilitary organisation in north Belfast.

A clear majority of UDA 'brigadiers' are no longer prepared to share a leadership table with the Shoukris.

They have in effect expelled Ihab Shoukri from the inner council and distanced the rest of the organisation from the three most senior members of the north Belfast leadership.

The North Belfast UDA was understood to be meeting last night to discuss the implications of Thursday's meeting.

One source said every member was 'summoned'. A statement from the inner council is expected to do so soon.

It first wants to hear the reaction of the UDA membership in the north of the city.

If those members want to be represented at a leadership level within the UDA, then they will first have to remove Ihab Shoukri, his brother Andre and a third loyalist from their leadership positions.

That third loyalist is a one-time close associate of Johnny Adair.

If the three are removed, then according to one source, 'it's business as usual'.

The UDA has six so-called 'brigade' areas ? each represented on the inner council. Ihab Shoukri is the north Belfast 'brigadier' but has been excluded from meetings of the leadership for many weeks, and he will have been further isolated by Thursday's decision.

Four of the other five UDA brigadiers are no longer prepared to recognise his leadership, but the position of the organisation in south east Antrim is still not clear. Its leader did not attend the Shoukri investigation but sent a representative.

If the UDA in south east Antrim sides with the organisation in south, east and west Belfast and in north Antrim/Derry, then it will be the end of the Shoukris and their closest associate inside the paramilitary organisation.

The question is, can it be achieved peacefully and without a major split within the UDA.

The position of all parts of the organisation should be known by next week.

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