Unionist paramilitary Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair has been released from prison and flown to England by the British army.
The former UDA leader was taken from Maghaberry prison, near Lisburn, County Antrim, and then flown by military helicopter to Manchester.
Former associates of Adair had vowed to kill him if he returned to his home in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. His wife Gina and other supporters live in Bolton.
The Northern Ireland prison service said he had not received any pre-release home leave since 1999 because his “continuing involvement with illegal activities... would have posed an unacceptable risk to the community in Northern Ireland.”
Adair has been accused of killing his former UDA comrade John Gregg two years ago in a bllody feud which led to his ouster from his Shankill Road stronghold.
Adair’s wife and children moved last year to Bolton, near Manchester in northern England. Their teenage son Jonathan, was jailed last year for conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
DISSIDENT ATTACKS ESCALATE
A blast bomb exploded tonight at a PSNI base in County Armagh. It is the first bomb attack on a Crown force base by breakaway republicans in recent months.
The device was thrown into the grounds of the barracks in Lurgan but caused no damage. No injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, four firebombs found at a mail sorting centre near Belfast have also been blamed on republican hardliners.