Sunday Life

Loyalists at war: Duff ammo saved lives

26 September 2004

DOZENS of lives were spared because a massive loyalist weapons cache, smuggled in from the Middle East in the late 1980s, included hundreds of rounds of faulty ammunition.

The ammunition smuggled into Northern Ireland in the Lebanese arms consignment was of Chinese origin, and of poor quality.

The weapons, which were divided between the UVF and the UDA and Ulster Resistance, have been reported to have been from South Africa, but the haul came from the Lebanon; the only South African connection was the arms dealer, Douglas Bernhart, who set up the deal between the loyalists and Lebanese businessman, Joe Fawzi.

The haul included new guns, rocket-launchers, grenades and, crucially, the faulty ammo.

On numerous occasions lives were saved, because guns jammed due to the faulty rounds.

In 2000, one loyalist involved in terrorism during the early 1990s said: "There are an awful lot of people walking about the streets of Belfast today, who don't know how lucky they are to be alive."

One of those would-be victims who survived was a white South African-born Queen's University lecturer, Dr Adrian Guelke.

The 44-year-old academic was shot in the back, after UDA gunmen burst into his South Belfast home at around 4.30am on September 4, 1991, while Dr Guelke lay asleep.

Dr Guelke was the victim of a plot that originated back in his native country.

The lecturer was an outspoken critic of the apartheid dictatorship, and many years later he discovered that South African Defence Force (SADF) intelligence branch had doctored details from a leaked RUC Special Branch file, to make him a target for loyalists.

The file, originally about an English-born lecturer working in Northern Ireland, who was a secret link between the IRA and the African National Congress, was revised by a South African agent, Leon Flores, in such a way as to suggest that Guelke was the IRA-ANC link.

Flores flew to Belfast via London in the autumn of 1991, contacted the UDA, and provided its south Belfast brigade with the revised intelligence report.

The UDA fell for his story, and targeted the unfortunate academic a few days later.

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