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Shoukri ‘trying to destabilise’ North

By Staff Reporter

The return of ousted UDA leader Andre Shoukri to Tigers Bay during a loyalist parade last weekend has heightened already raised tensions in the area.Shoukri was attending a parade last Friday night in memory of 16-year-old Glen Branagh who was killed as he prepared to throw a pipe bomb across to the New Lodge side of the interface on November 11 2001.

Although he was said to have “kept a distance” at the parade, his reappearance in the area has led to fears of trouble in the district.

Shoukri once held one of the most senior leadership positions in the UDA — its North Belfast brigadier. But the paramilitary group later expelled him and his brother, Ihab, who died in November 2008 of a suspected drugs overdose.

The UDA in North Belfast is understood to be deeply unhappy with his return to the area and believe his faction is behind recent trouble in Ballysillan.

The son of an Egyptian father and Irish mother, the Westland estate raised loyalist said after his release he had no interest in regaining leadership of the UDA and that his group – which mainstream loyalists call the ‘Shoukri gang’ – are just a “group of mates” not intent on criminality.

However a loyalist source said they believe Shoukri is trying to destabilise North Belfast.

“For about the past year and a half there have been about 40 to 50 incidents that we believe is related to that gang,” said the source.

“Houses have been attacked in Ballysillan and there was an incident in a local bar recently. He came to the parade on Friday night but kept a sort of distance. However we believe they want to destabilise North Belfast.”

John Howcroft from the Ulster Political Research Group, regarded as the political wing of the UDA, tried to dampen the tensions.

“”We are appealing for calm and asking that the police be allowed to do their jobs, people in this area do not want to be living in fear,” he said.


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