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Renegade UDA faction hands over the last of its weapons

The UDA’s South East Antrim Brigade decommissioned what it says was the “remainder” of its weaponry yesterday.

According to a spokesman for the group who contacted the Belfast Telegraph yesterday afternoon, the breakaway faction handed over a quantity of weapons to General John de Chastelain at an undisclosed location on Monday.

Another smaller paramilitary faction loyal to former North Belfast UDA Brigadier Andre Shoukri handed over weapons to General de Chastelain in November 2008 on the day Ihab Shoukri was buried following his sudden death at his Rathcoole home.

Another decommissioning act was planned by the faction in November last year but Andre Shoukri’s arrest for an alleged breach of parole conditions scuppered the operation when he was returned to Maghaberry Prison.

The UDA’s South East Antrim Brigade decommissioned the bulk of its weaponry last June.

The group confirmed the decommissioning act two months later when three representatives from the Brigade said that it had decommissioned weapons “at the beginning of June under the supervision of General de Chastelain”.

The group said that its weapons were destroyed at a location outside Belfast and that angle grinders had been used to cut up the guns. The group said that a “significant” quantity of materials had been destroyed during the day long exercise.

The South East Antrim group refused to give any further details yesterday about what is believed to be its final act of decommissioning weapons.

Today is the deadline for the handing over of any remaining weapons held by paramilitaries before the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning is wound up.

On January 6 the IICD issued a statement saying that the mainstream UDA element led by South Belfast loyalist Jackie McDonald had conducted a major act of decommissioning in which arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices belonging to the organisation had been destroyed.

The IICD said that the UDA had started its decommissioning process last June and that the UDA had told General de Chastelain that the weapons destroyed in January “constitute the totality of those under their control”. But reports have circulated in loyalist circles since then that the Londonderry/North Antrim UDA Brigade refused to hand over weapons because of the dissident threat.

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