New UDA leaders told to step down

The new leadership of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association in north Belfast tonight faced an immediate demand to stand down.

The new leadership of the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association in north Belfast tonight faced an immediate demand to stand down.

A new so-called interim brigade staff has been chosen to take over from brothers Andre and Ihab Shoukri who are in jail awaiting terrorist related charges.

The UDA in north Belfast is considered the most volatile of all the loyalist criminal gangs in Northern Ireland which are heavily involved in extortion, drugs and money laundering.

The Shoukri brothers are in custody in Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim awaiting trial – Andre on blackmail charges and Ihab accused of UDA membership.

They had been under pressure from elements with the overall leadership to stand down after being expelled by the ruling inner-council.

But nationalist representatives tonight said the change at the top is unlikely to ease tensions among rival factions, including those staying loyalist to the Shoukir.

Alan Mageniss, a north Belfast SDLP member of the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly said: “Its a coup, replacing a bad lot with another lot which can well be equally as bad.

“I challenge them to clean up their act by starting to end all their activity and consider winding up completely for the good of everybody.”

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