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Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Published at 18:32 GMT


Leading loyalist shot dead

The gunmen may have escaped down the Shankhill Road

A leading loyalist has been shot dead in the Shankill area of Belfast.

The BBC's Chris West: "He could have been the victim of an internal conflict"
Frankie Curry, in his 40s, was a former member of the Red Hand Commando loyalist group, which is still on ceasefire.

Loyalist sources have suggested the shooting was part of an internal feud and not a republican revenge attack for the murder of nationalist lawyer Rosemary Nelson on Monday.

Wednesday's killing happened as thousands of people entered the city for its St Patrick's Day parade.

Ken Maginnis MP: "We can't have these people running about unchecked"
The RUC believe three gunmen carried out the shooting, one of whom wore a mask. Witnesses saw a man running up the Shankill Road after about five shots were fired.

Curry's body was found behind the Pony Trotting Supporters Sports and Social Club. He had been shot several times in the back of the head.

The RUC has sealed off the area and are conducting forensic tests. They are anxious to speak to a man who was understood to have been with the victim when he was killed.

Curry is known to have fallen out with the Ulster Volunteer Force over his support for murdered Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright, and had to move to Portadown after his life was threatened.

Loyalists blamed

He was expelled from the Red Hand Commando for "treason", but had recently been linked to dissident loyalist groups.

Ulster Democratic Party spokesman John White, who may have been the last person to speak to Curry, also blamed loyalists.

"It's disgraceful that a man who dedicated his life to the loyalist cause should be cut down like this by people who call themselves loyalists," he said.

Curry's mother collapsed and had to be taken to hospital after hearing of her son's death.

Appeal for restraint

Speaking to BBC News, Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis said the continued violence in the province underlined the need for decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.

"The sooner that happens, there will be less fear, less mistrust and we can move ahead," he said. Speaking in Washington, Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam said: "This was an appalling killing as was the death of Rosemary Nelson. Killings like this serve no purpose."

Mrs Nelson was killed on Monday in a car bombing by a loyalist group called the Red Hand Defenders.

Wednesday's shooting was condemned by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams who is also in Washington for St Patrick's Day. He appealed for restraint, saying: "People have to make sure that the wreckers do not get their way."

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