updated 11/23/2008 2:08:31 PM ET 2008-11-23T19:08:31

One of Belfast's most notorious anti-Catholic extremists was found dead Sunday from an apparent drug overdose, three months after winning parole from prison.

Police said they were not seeking anyone else on suspicion of involvement in the death of Ihab Shoukri, 34, a former commander of the Ulster Defense Association, the biggest outlawed paramilitary group in Northern Ireland.

Together with his younger brother, Shoukri spent years terrorizing Catholics in his north Belfast power base and running a wide range of criminal rackets — most notably drug dealing. Prominent community activists said Shoukri would not be missed, and the manner of his demise represented poetic justice.

"I am sad to hear a young man has lost his life, but the first thought that came to my mind was: Those who live by the sword die by it," said Protestant community worker May Blood. "This guy put drugs into the community for years and years and destroyed so many lives."

Ousted from the Ulster Defense Association
The Shoukri brothers were ousted from the UDA command in north Belfast in June 2006 after both had been jailed pending trial for paramilitary activities. They had angered UDA colleagues for ignoring orders to extricate the organization from a wide range of criminal enterprises, including counterfeiting, smuggling and prostitution.

In April, Shoukri pleaded guilty to UDA membership after police raided a pub and caught him and five henchmen planning a UDA public demonstration. He was sentenced to 15 months, including time spent awaiting trial.

To the anger of many Catholics, Shoukri was freed early from prison in August as part of a reduced sentence because he had pleaded guilty — the latest in a long line of seemingly lenient sentences for well-known UDA figures.

The UDA killed more than 400 people, mostly Catholic civilians, from 1971 to 1994, when the group began observing a cease-fire as part of a burgeoning peace process. Over the past decade, the British government has failed in various initiatives to persuade the group to disarm in line with Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.

The brawny Shoukri brothers — offspring of an immigrant Egyptian father and Belfast Protestant mother — rose quickly through the ranks of the north Belfast UDA in the late 1990s as the group was turning away from intimidating Catholics and toward full-time gangsterism.

They formed a loose alliance with the UDA's most dangerous figure of the day, Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, a west Belfast commander who shared their passion for bodybuilding.

Adair went back to prison in 2003 after coming out the loser in a bloody power struggle with other UDA chiefs, then fled Northern Ireland two years later upon his parole.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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