14 May 2006

Decision time on fate of Shoukris

Sunday Life

By Stephen Breen and Alan Murray
14 May 2006

THE role of the two Shoukri brothers within the UDA is set to be decided by the terror group's leadership this week.

Senior loyalist sources told Sunday Life last night that no decision has been taken to expel Andre and Ihab Shoukri over the north Belfast UDA brigade's links to drugs and extortion.

But further meetings will be held this week - including one by the UDA's so-called 'inner council' tomorrow - following the conclusion of an inquiry into the activities of the two brothers and their cronies.

Sources claim that, if the Shoukris are not expelled, it could lead to friction with other UDA leaders - including south Belfast 'brigadier' Jackie McDonald.

Said one senior UDA source: "Nobody knows what the findings of this inquiry will be and what effect it will have on the organisation.

"The Shoukris are still members of the UDA and it will be interesting to see what happens over the coming week.

"It looks as if they might be allowed to remain, but who knows?

"There is a lot of confusion in the organisation at the moment."

It's understood that, if the north Belfast leadership is allowed to remain in the organisation, it will seek the expulsion of east Belfast Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) spokesman Frankie Gallagher.

Mr Gallagher last night refused to comment on the claims.

Churchmen and community workers in north Belfast also told a UDA inquiry last week that crime and drug-dealing in the area had been substantially reduced over the last 18 months.

They also claimed the man proposed as the alternative leader to replace Andre Shoukri was a thug, who left a local man in a coma after a savage attack.

McDonald - who is recovering from a serious operation - is understood to have backed one veteran UDA man, another senior UPRG member and a minor UDA figure in the area in their criticisms of the Shoukris.

The trio claimed UDA funds were siphoned off by the Shoukris to fund gambling, pay for foreign holidays and for top-of-the-range cars and clothes.

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