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22 June 2006 Edition

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Shoukris booted out of UDA

The expulsion of North Belfast gang leaders Andre and Ihab Shourki along with a third man, Alan McClean, by the UDA has raised the possibility of another round of bitter internal feuding between unionist paramilitaries.

A violent internal feud erupted after similar action was taken against Andre Shourki's former mentor Johnny Adair four years ago.

Resentment at the Shoukri brothers 'lavish lifestyle' has intensified since their dramatic rise to power within the UDA and concerns were raised inside the UDA after they appeared to escape a number of prison sentences despite being caught red handed.

In September 2002 Andre Shourki was sentenced to a six year jail term after he was caught with a loaded pistol, but this was later reduced on appeal. He is currently in custody awaiting trial on blackmail, intimidation and money laundering charges. In court it was disclosed that the 29-year-old gambled £863,000 of UDA money in one North Belfast bookmakers between April 2003 and last August.

In March of this year Ihab walked free from court despite being found in a bar during a UDA 'show of strength' while out on bail awaiting trial for UDA membership. Loyalists expressed surprise after the charges were dropped earlier this month due to lack of evidence even though the PSNI found a UDA statement in his handwriting when they raided the bar.

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