Loyalists warns of revenge for double killing

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Hardline Ulster loyalists signalled their intention yesterday of taking revenge for the killing on Monday of two of their men in Belfast.

Hardline Ulster loyalists signalled their intention yesterday of taking revenge for the killing on Monday of two of their men in Belfast.

The decision of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, to order the arrest of the Ulster Freedom Fighters leader, Johnny Adair - accompanied by the redeployment of troops on the streets - has been initially successful in keeping the lid on loyalist tensions in the Shankill Road area.

It was being openly said, however, that the UFF intends to take revenge for the shooting of the two loyalists, one a close associate of Adair, by the rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

John White, of the Ulster Democratic Party, the UFF's political wing, said: "I have been trying to encourage people to start talking again. I have been told in no uncertain terms there will be no talking. The UFF want their retribution."

The UVF's political spokesman, Billy Hutchinson, said: "Irrespective of whether Johnny Adair is here, tensions are still the same. I would be concerned there will be more attacks. I understand that people will want revenge but there will have to be mediation eventually between the two organisations."

Last night, the BBC reported that the decision to have Adair returned to prison, after he had been given early release under the Good Friday Agreement, was taken on the basis of high-grade intelligence. It said he had been linked to gun-trading, displays of paramilitary weaponry and major drugs operations.

Adair is to appeal against the decision. The Sentence Review Commission will now examine Mr Mandelson's decision, taking written submissions from both the Secretary of State and Adair's legal team.

Mr Mandelson said: "He hasn't a leg to stand on. I will maintain my decision in whatever forum I have to. I am entirely confident I was right. There is always a risk that maverick individuals will want to pursue this blood feud, and we must be on our guard, but over time I believe the removal of Mr Adair will cause tension to subside."

He insisted the recent violence and Adair's rearrest did not mean the loyalist ceasefires had been broken because, he argued, an individual's wrongdoing was not necessarily directed by an organisation. "By no means do all the UDA [Ulster Defence Association] or UFF support or subscribe to the actions of Johnny Adair and that is why many of them will be breathing a sigh of relief that he is now behind bars again," he said.

Andrew MacKay, the Tory spokesman on Northern Ireland, commented: "We welcome the fact that Mr Mandelson, after displaying dither and prevarication, is now implementing Conservative policy by suspending Johnny Adair's licence. Our regret is that he didn't take firm and decisive action sooner."

A man questioned by police about Monday's double murder was released without charge. Six other men were being questioned by detectives investigating arms finds. A total of eight guns were recovered in the Shankill Road and elsewhere following the killings.