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UDA gang accused of launching campaign against senior loyalists

MEMBERS of a dissident UDA gang have been accused of stoking tensions by engaging in a campaign against senior loyalists that has resulted in homes being picketed.

Loyalists who were expelled from the UDA following the removal of former leader Andre Shoukri have recently aligned themselves to the west Belfast 'brigade' and walked alongside them during a Remembrance Day parade last month.

West Belfast members of the UDA distanced themselves from the mainstream organisation last year ahead of the publication of a report by Sir Desmond de Silva into the murder of Pat Finucane.

The findings of the review revealed that all but one of the gang involved in the solicitor's murder were working at the time for police and military intelligence.

As a result the Shankill UDA are now operating autonomously from the rest of the organisation.

Members were accused of involvement in an arson attack on the Boundary Way home of Tracey Coulter on Sunday, which caused extensive damage.

On Friday veteran loyalist William 'Mo' Courtney was convicted of assaulting Ms Coulter.

UDA leaders Jackie McDonald and John Bunting have been singled out by the dissident loyalists, who have been using social networking sites to accuse them of 'selling out' by continuing to take part in cross-community and police safety initiatives.

Bunting has also been criticised for not actively taking part in the flag protests or making an appearance at the protest camp at Twaddell.

Graffiti stating 'Bunting out UFF' has appeared on walls in the loyalist Tiger's Bay area and on Friday around 30 people held a picket at the home of loyalist ex-prisoner John Howcroft who lives in the area.

A number of loyalists who remain loyal to Bunting and McDonald have also been told by police that they are under death threat from rogue loyalists.

Speaking yesterday, Jackie McDonald said he was concerned that there was a potential for the situation to escalate and called on people to "reflect".

In relation to ongoing online abuse he said: "I do not respond to faceless comments by cowards telling lies".

* ATTACK:

Tracey Coulter, the daughter of loyalist John Coulter who was shot dead in 2000, at her house after an arson attack on Sunday. Ms Coulter has said the UDA are trying to force her out of her home. Inset, Andre Shoukri

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Mal McCann

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