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5,000 mourn slain Protestant extremist

©Associated Press
February 7, 2003

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- With a bagpiper's wail and revenge in the air, more than 5,000 Protestant extremists walked Thursday behind the coffin of a senior Belfast terrorist gunned down in an internal feud that threatens to claim more lives.

An "honor guard" of masked men in leather jackets fired a volley of shots over the casket of John Gregg, 45, a commander in the outlawed Ulster Defense Association, the major anti-Catholic paramilitary group responsible for hundreds of sectarian killings over the past three decades.

Two truckloads of floral tributes preceded the hearse carrying Gregg, a man of unusual brawn and bigotry who won fame in extreme Protestant circles by shooting Gerry Adams, leader of the Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein party, in 1984.

The UDA's four surviving commanders, who marched behind Gregg's flag-draped coffin near leaders of other outlawed Protestant gangs in a rare scene of unity, emphasized that their No. 1 target now is a fellow extremist: deposed UDA warlord Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair.

Adair was blamed for ordering Gregg's assassination Saturday at a Belfast stop light in a spiraling feud over egos and drug-dealing turf. A junior UDA member also died in the ambush.

"Our communities have suffered enough, enough of internal and external feuds," the Rev. Mervyn Gibson, a Presbyterian minister, said in a graveside oration.

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