Arrest halts UDA faction's handover of weapons

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The Independent Online

The decommissioning of weapons by a UDA element in north Belfast has been halted following the arrest of leading loyalist Andre Shoukri on Sunday.

Shoukri was stopped in a car near Carrickfergus by a police patrol, arrested and driven to Maghaberry Prison despite being granted parole that was scheduled to run until 3pm today.

Supporters say he was due to meet General John de Chastelain last night to discuss further decommissioning moves by a UDA group in north Belfast which has remained loyal to him.

But yesterday angry supporters called off the meeting and said that the PSNI action had jeopardised plans by it to totally disarm by February of next year.

The group said yesterday that it had informed the NIO that it had cancelled last night’s planned meeting with General de Chastelain. Yesterday afternoon a senior NIO official pleaded with the group to go ahead with the meeting to keep the process on track but the UDA group refused.

“The Northern Ireland Office didn’t know until this morning (Monday) that Andre had been arrested and returned to Maghaberry, even the prison didn’t know why he had been lifted and returned to the jail on Sunday,” one Shoukri associate said last night.

It’s understood that Shoukri was stopped in a car being driven by another leading loyalist on Sunday when he was arrested for what is understood to have been a breach of his parole conditions.

The PSNI confirmed his arrest but refused to specify what condition had been breached.

His supporters say that after a football tournament at the Valley Leisure Centre on Sunday organised to mark the death a year ago of his brother Ihab, Shoukri accepted a lift.

In a statement the Northern Ireland Prison Service said: “We can confirm that Andre Shoukri was returned to prison on Sunday by the Police Service of Northern Ireland following a reported breach of his home leave conditions.

“His position has been reviewed by the Prison Service, following further consultation with the PSNI, and a decision was made to allow Mr Shoukri to complete the period of home leave that was granted to him last Friday.”

Source: The Belfast Telegraph