Battle for cocaine turf behind Westland murder bid
Ex-UDA leader Andre Shoukri is being blamed on organising a botched murder bid that left a man in hospital with a bullet in the back.
Dean Rice narrowly escaped death when he was shot in the Westland estate in north Belfast during the early hours of Tuesday. There is no suggestion the injured man is involved in criminality.
Sources say he was targeted because of his friendship with convicted drug dealer Alan McClean Jnr — a former close ally of Shoukri who has muscled in on his patch.
The two, who are both based in the Westland, are said to be vying for control of cocaine rackets in loyalist areas of north Belfast.
Sources say Shoukri’s gang initially planned to move against McClean Jnr, but opted for Rice instead because he is a softer target.
They say the change of plan was, in part, due to McClean Jnr’s close relationship with major drugs baron Laurence ‘Duffer’ Kincaid, who is also his supplier.
“Dean Rice was targeted due to his friendship with Alan McClean Jnr, and because he is a soft target,” explained a loyalist insider.
“He was lured by a phone call to a meeting at Westland Way where he was shot. The plan was to kill him, but the gunman got nervous and ran off.
“The Shoukri gang initially wanted to shoot McClean Jnr, but they backed off because of his closeness to Duffer Kincaid.”
Convicted drug boss Kincaid (49), who keeps a low profile, is among the biggest criminals in Northern Ireland.
Sources say he supplies dozens of dealers throughout Belfast and Antrim, and has access to several pistols stolen during burglaries at the homes of legally held gun-owners. It has been widely reported Kincaid once led the LVF in north Belfast, but has kept his head down since surviving a UVF murder bid over a decade ago.
Sources say one of his biggest customers is Alan McClean Jnr (35), who previously served an 18-month prison sentence for dealing cocaine and has convictions for attending a meeting in support of the UDA.
He has been vying for control of drugs rackets in north Belfast with Andre Shoukri (45), who is supplied by the South East Antrim UDA.
The pair were once close friends, but fell out amid arguments over crime turf.
Loyalist sources believe that with both drug dealers refusing to back down, more bloodshed is inevitable.
“The McClean gang will have to hit back, if they don’t Shoukri will just steam-roll them out of north Belfast,” added our source.
“The problem is they are both based in the Westland, which is a small housing estate in which two drug dealers with very big egos live. There is bound to be retaliation.”
Following last Tuesday’s gun attack, both the Shoukri and McClean mobs accused the other of selling heroin. Insiders say this is a deliberate ploy to blacken the names of those involved in the drugs feud.
“This is all about gaining control of drugs territory in north Belfast and the money that comes with it, people shouldn’t be fooled into thinking it’s about anything else,” a veteran loyalist told Sunday Life.
Both Shoukri and McClean had to flee the Westland 15 years ago after being targeted by the North Belfast UDA.
They were expelled from the terror group following an internal coup which saw Shoukri removed as ‘brigadier’ and his closest associates banished.
The pair relocated to the Rathcoole estate and Carrickfergus under the protection of South East Antrim UDA leader Gary Fisher. Shoukri moved back to north Belfast in 2016 when the UDA there fell apart after an internal power struggle and split into smaller localised gangs.
This dispute spilled into serious violence when Shoukri’s best friend and ex-UDA leader John Boreland was murdered later that year. This was the second tragedy that Shoukri suffered — his older brother Ihab, a UDA gunman, died aged 34 of a drugs overdose in 2008.
Ihab Shoukri was, ironically, a good friend of Alan McClean Jnr who is now feuding with his younger sibling Andre. Andre Shoukri, like his rival, is no stranger to the courts and served a nine-year prison sentence for UDA blackmail and extortion.
He also has convictions for possessing a gun, and the unlawful and malicious wounding of teenager Gareth Parker who died following a sectarian assault in 1996.
Appealing for information about the Dean Rice shooting, the PSNI’s Detective Sergeant Dougherty said: “It was reported shortly before 12:20am that a man, aged in his 30s, had been shot in the back in the Westland Way area. He was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries.
“A suspect, described as slim and dressed all in dark clothing with a mask on and a hood drawn tight over his face, is believed to have fled the area on foot in the direction of Westland Road.
“Our enquiries into this incident are ongoing and we would appeal to anyone who was in the area at the time and saw anything, or who may have dash-cam or other footage, to contact police on 101 quoting reference 22 of 24/5/22.”
Condemning the murder bid, North Belfast DUP MLA Brian Kingston said: “It’s appalling that a man has been shot in the back and has sustained serious injuries in an incident police are treating as attempted murder.”