Ex-UDA boss Billy 'The Mexican' McFarlane is becoming increasingly concerned for his safety after one of his closest allies was injured in a UDA gun attack at his Co Antrim home.
Former loyalist prisoner Shaun Leighton is recovering in hospital after being shot multiple times having answered a knock at his door in the village of Mosside last Tuesday.
The 53-year-old is a good pal of McFarlane, who was forced out as 'brigadier' of the North Antrim UDA in 2013 during a bloodless coup.
Although cast adrift he and several supporters have managed to maintain a presence in Mosside, which is situated on the road between Coleraine and Ballycastle.
The attempted murder of Leighton is being viewed as a message to McFarlane not to cause further friction with the North Antrim UDA.
Three years ago his son Steven McFarlane - who was no links to paramilitaries - was badly beaten by a UDA gang from Bushmills in a warning to the veteran loyalist.
"Shaun Leighton may have been shot, but the real warning is to McFarlane and his men," a loyalist source told Sunday Life.
"If he doesn't wind his neck in it will be him next, regardless of whether he was a brigadier or not."
McFarlane, who was named by the 'Trick or Treat' Greysteel killers who murdered eight people in the 1993 atrocity as the massacre mastermind, is understood to be taking the threat against him seriously.
The convicted bomber's injured pal Leighton had a conviction for possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists quashed by the high court in 2001.
McFarlane, who is aged in his mid-60s, was also heavily involved in far-right circles on the north coast and was once close to notorious race hate thug Mark 'The Nazi' Brown.
Our loyalist source added: "When McFarlane was stood down he was given a nice retirement package, and instead of being shot or excluded from the country he agreed to go away quietly.
"He was told that if did not badmouth anyone, he would not be badmouthed.
"The worry is that the more volatile people, who said at the time he should have been taken away and plugged, are now saying that it should be done."
The attempt to kill Shaun Leighton was the 15th gun attack in north Antrim in the past year. Earlier this month it was revealed the Paramilitary Crime Taskforce has been drafted into the area because of the upsurge in violence.