Shoukri: lastest UDA man to be picked up

  • 9 November 2005
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One of the Ulster Defence Association's most high-profile and notorious leaders was arrested on Tuesday 8 November in a major police investigation into serious crime in the greater Belfast area.

André Shoukri, the 28 year-old, leader of the UDA in north Belfast was one of five people arrested in coordinated PSNI raids in the north and east of the city.

One person was taken into the police witness protection scheme as part of the operation. It is understood the person has no connections to the UDA.

Houses in the Westland estate in north Belfast, Shoukri's power-base, were raided for more than five hours on Tuesday morning. The raids follow mounting pressure on the PSNI to clamp-down on the UDA which runs an extensive criminal network in Northern Ireland.

Shoukri, one of the most flamboyant UDA leaders, is alleged to be heavily involved in criminality and has been under pressure from within his own organisation to lower his profile and curtail his criminal dealings.

Within the UDA there is a growing feeling that Shoukri, a figure in the mould of murdered UDA boss Jim Gray, should be expelled from the organisation.

One senior Belfast UDA member said there is little sympathy for Shoukri's within the group.

"He's on his own with this one, people in the organisation will be hoping that this will be the last of Shoukri," he said.

"He's a young guy who has made a lot of enemies in the past few years and if he's taken of the streets by the police it could save the UDA a lot of trouble."

Earlier this year a number of UDA men from north Belfast were charged with attempting to abduct a bank manager and of attempting to rob a bank in the city.

Since Shoukri, the son of an Irish mother and Egyptian father, took over the leadership of the UDA in 2002, with the backing of then UDA boss Johnny Adair, the group has carried out a series of sectarian murders in the north of the city. So far Shoukri has led a charmed life as UDA leader. In 2002 he avoided a custodial sentence despite being arrested in possession of a loaded and illegally held handgun at the height of a UDA feud in north Belfast.