Loyalist guns from South Africa
Where are the remainder of the South African weapons which loyalist death squads used to slaughter 135 people, mostly Catholics, during a five –year murder spree? That’s the hard-hitting question which well-placed nationalist sources have demanded an answer to.
And the current South African government also needs to launch a Bloody Sunday-style public inquiry into who in the former apartheid regime knew about a massive arms cache sent to those death squads in 1988, urged the sources.
The damning dossier of death has been given to the Star as the collusion debate in Irish bloody past takes another twist.
In January 1988, the UDA intelligence boss and British agent Brian Nelson masterminded one of the biggest consignments of illegal weapons to loyalists since the Larne gun-running of 1914 to arm Carson’s Ulster Volunteers. The loyalist bloodbath bonanza consisted of 200 Russian-made Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifles; 90 American Browning 9 mm pistols; around 500 fragmentation grenades; 30,000 bullets; a dozen Russian-made RPG7 rocket launchers, and an unknown number of warheads.
The nationalist sources also maintained Nelson – who died in 2003 – because of his senior UDA post, would also have known where the loyalist caches were hidden. Within hours of landing in the North, a significant consignment bound for the UDA was seized by the security forces, followed a month later by another major cache belonging to the UVF in Belfast.
The massive consignment had been divided between three loyalist terror gangs – the UDA, UVF and the fledgling Ulster Resistance, which had only been formed a few years earlier with strong DUP backing. It was suspected that the UDA’s part was deliberately sacrificed to ensure the bulk of the remainder of the initial consignment made it past the security forces. The DUP later distanced itself from Ulster Resistance – known for its distinctive red berets – after Resistance members were ironically involved in a plot to smuggle missile plans to apartheid South Africa.
It is thought many of Ulster Resistance’s consignment were distributed to the UDA and UVF. According to the nationalist sources’ documentation, in spite of the loyalist terror ceasefires and decommissioning, just under half the original consignment remains unaccounted for.
There is the real fear some of these weapons could find their way into the caches of dissident loyalist groups, such as the Loyalist Volunteer Force, Orange Volunteers, Red Hand Defenders, Real UFF, or even criminal gangs.
The South African weapons had a major impact on the murder rate of the loyalist death squads.
According to our sources, in the six years – from January 1982 to December 1987 - before the smuggling of the huge arsenal, loyalists murdered 71 people. In the five years after the weapons’ arrival, loyalists killed 135 people – almost double the rate before acquiring the South African haul.
The nationalist dossier details some 54 attacks attributed to the haul in which people were murdered, ranging from single deaths to massacres such as the Greysteel and Loughinisland pub slaughters. The blood lust began within weeks of the consignment’s arrival with the Belfast Milltown Cemetery Massacre on 16 March, 1988, in which UFF killer Michael Stone murdered three men using the Browning pistols and grenades. Stone was again later jailed for a failed bid to bomb a sitting of the Stormont Assembly.
According to the documents, the final murder act attributed to the smuggled weapons was the UDA killing of Catholic security guard Harry O’Neill in Belfast on 10 August, 1994 – some two months prior to the mainstream loyalist paramilitary ceasefires in October.
This was also the same year the white-dominated apartheid regime was formally ended in South Africa when elections brought Nelson Mandela and his ANC to power. The document also noted: “There have also been many attempted killings using such weaponry, which have resulted in many serious injuries.”
Ten Murders Caused By The South African Weapons:
1, October 1993: Rising Sun lounge massacre, Greysteel: Karen Thompson, Steven Mullan, Joseph McDermott, Moira Duddy, James Moore, John Burns, John Moyne, Samuel Montgomery (died later from his injuries). Claimed by UFF using AK-47s and Browning.
2, June 1994: Loughinisland pub massacre: Adrian Rogan, Daniel McCreanor, Eamon Byrne, Patrick O’Hare, Barney Green, Malcolm Jenkinson. Claimed by UVF using AK-47s.
3, March 1988: Milltown Cemetery massacre: Thomas McErlean, John Murray, Caoimhin MacBradaigh. Killed by Michael Stone.
4, May 1988: Avenue Bar massacre, Belfast: Stephen McGahan, Damien Devlin, Paul McBride. Claimed by UVF using AK-47s.
5, March 1991: Cappagh massacre, Co Tyrone: John Quinn, Dwayne O’Donnell, Malcolm Nugent, Thomas Armstrong. Claimed by Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright’s UVF unit using AK-47s.
6, March 1991: Craigavon mobile shop massacre: Eileen Duffy, Katrina Rennie, Brian Frizzell. Claimed by Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson’s UVF unit.
7, November 1992: North Belfast betting shop massacre: Francis Burns, Peter Orderly, John Lovett. Claimed by UFF using AK-47s and grenades.
8, February 1992: Ormeau Road betting shop massacre: Peter Magee, James Kennedy, Christy Doherty, William McManus, Jack Duffin. Claimed by UFF using Ak-47 and Browning.
9, August 1991: senior IPLO member Martin O’Prey: Claimed by UVF using Browning.
10, May 1991: Sinn Fein Councillor Eddie Fullerton, Donegal: Claimed by UFF using Browning.
The Key Ten Questions The South African Government Needs To Answer About The Gun Running:
1, How far up the apartheid regime of the South African ruling National Party did the knowledge go that illegal weapons were going to loyalist death squads?
2, Many of the weapons were of communist make, so did the South Africans take them from captured or killed guerrillas from communist organisations in South Africa, Angola and Mozambique rather than the while government’s own home-produced weaponry?
3, What was the role of the South African secret service, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and rogue elements of its fore-runner, the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) in the gun-running given Nelson’s link to British intelligence?
4, Who paid for the consignment? Did the cash come from Unionist businessmen, loyalist robbery proceeds, the British intelligence community, or a generous donation from the apartheid regime in South Africa?
5, What did the South African regime get in return for supplying the loyalists?
6, Was targeting anti-apartheid groups and people in the UK and Ireland part of the deal to supplying the massive arms cache?
7, Did the loyalist groups agree to gather intelligence on possible targets in the UK and Ireland who opposed apartheid for the South African agents to murder?
8, How much does the modern African National Congress government of South Africa know about this January 1988 gun-running and will it use its Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help the North’s Historical Enquiries Team to solve murders?
9, Where is the remainder of the South African consignment? Did Nelson before he died give any indication to either his South African contacts or British intelligence handlers as to their locations?
10, Could the South Africans confirm or deny that any loyalist or Unionist politicians were involved in the arms deal given the DUP’s links to Ulster Resistance at that time in 1988?