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Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Published at 22:44 GMT


Loyalist feud looms after killing

A boy looks down at the body of Frankie Curry, murdered near the Shankill Road

A renegade loyalist groupis threatening leaders of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in retaliation for the killing of a man gunned down in Belfast on Wednesday.

Ken Maginnis MP: "We can't have these people running about unchecked"
Frankie Curry was a former member of the outlawed Red Hand Commando - a frequently-used cover name for the UVF - but had fallen out with UVF leaders after backing the late Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright.

But on Wednesday night the renegade Red Hand Defenders - the same group who claimed responsibility for the killing of Catholic lawyer Rosemary Nelson on Monday - issued a statement blaming the UVF for Mr Curry's murder and threatening retaliation.

[ image: Frankie Curry...had fallen out with UVF]
Frankie Curry...had fallen out with UVF
The statement said: "We knew that Frank Curry was murdered by the UVF today."

'Military action' promised

The group, who sprung up in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement, threatened "military action" against several named UVF leaders.

Threats were also made towards the UVF's political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party.

The BBC's Chris West: "He could have been the victim of an internal conflict"
The RUC believe three gunmen carried out the shooting, one of whom wore a mask. Witnesses saw a man running up the staunchly loyalist Shankill Road after about five shots were fired.

Mr 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 Search for Peace
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.

Mr Curry is known to have moved to Portadown, stronghold of the late Billy Wright, 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 Mr 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.

Mr 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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