Warring loyalists urged to end internal feud

 

Rival factions in a loyalist paramilitary group were today urged to end their feud to avoid bloodshed in Belfast this Christmas.

Former Belfast Lord Mayor and Ulster Unionist honorary secretary Mr Jim Rodgers issued the appeal to warring factions within the Ulster Defence Association after a 35-year-old man was wounded last night in a shooting outside an off-licence in east Belfast.

The man was in a stable condition in hospital today after being attacked by a lone gunmen in an alleyway outside Russell Cellars, on the Woodstock Road, where he was working.

Detectives were treating the shooting as attempted murder, with a security source linking it to a fierce internal battle for control of the Ulster Defence Association between Johnny Adair's supporters and the leadership of the terror group.

Mr Rodgers also attributed the shooting to the feud, urging both sides today to "pull back from the brink" this Christmas.

"This latest incident is deeply depressing and appalling," said Mr Rodgers, an East Belfast Assembly election candidate.

"I know there has been an awful lot of work going on behind the scenes...and there was some hope that we might see a reduction in this violence. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse.

"There is a great deal of confusion and anger in the loyalist and Protestant community at what is going on.

"People do not understand why this is going on and there is a very real fear that someone not involved in this feud could get on the wrong end of a car speeding away from an incident or a stray bullet.

"The loyalist and Protestant community want a peaceful Christmas. Both sides need to pull back from the brink before this results in deaths."

Tensions in loyalism in Belfast have reached boiling point following the bitter row between the UDA's leadership and former comrades in Johnny Adair's C Company unit in the west of the city.

In recent weeks, each faction has launched strike and counter strike, targeting the leaders of each group. Police and Army have, however, swamped flashpoint areas in a bid to halt an all-out shooting war between the two sides.

PA