Loyalist ‘Pipe Bomb Pastor’ once jailed for terror offences heads to Ukraine to take down Putin
Johnny Adair, who got to know Peeples in the Maze, said: ‘Fair play to Clifford. He’s standing up for his Christian beliefs by supporting the people of the Ukraine’
A convicted loyalist terror chief is facing down the Russian army in Ukraine, the Sunday World has learned.
Once dubbed the ‘Pipe Bomb Pastor’, Clifford Peeples was sent down for 10 years in 2001 when he was caught red-handed in possession of two grenades and a lethal pipe bomb.
But today we can reveal the former Protestant paramilitary boss has lined up alongside the Ukrainian people in their fight against Russian supremo Vladimir Putin.
And, in an exclusive interview from the front line yesterday, he told the Sunday World: “I’m merely out here helping the people of Ukraine in their hour of need.”
It is still unclear which role 53-year-old Peeples has in the Ukraine.
But we have learned he is a member of a ‘Close Range Reconnaissance’ unit supplying ‘real-time’ intelligence to the Ukraine defence forces.
And we have also been told the Shankill preacher sailed through a tough training course before heading off to the former Soviet satellite country four weeks ago.
In photographs obtained by the Sunday World, military experts have told us he is wearing ex-British Army battle fatigues. And he is nursing a Russian-made Byzen sub-machine-gun fitted with a muzzle flash eliminator.
On his left upper arm, Peeples displays the internationally acknowledged mercenary emblem ‘Molan Labe’. The insignia is strategically positioned below an embroidered Union flag which appears on all British Army operational uniforms.
Our army source says the ‘Molan Labe’ slogan is Greek and translates as ‘Come and take it!’
Yesterday, the Sunday World managed to briefly make contact with Pastor Peeples as he tracked his way back from the bomb-devastated east Ukraine region to the capital Kyiv, for a period of rest and recuperation.
Speaking on a crackly mobile phone line which dropped off repeatedly, Peeples told us: “I’m merely out here helping the people of Ukraine in their hour of need.”
But Peeples point-blank refused to reveal details of his role as ‘close quarter collector of military intelligence’.
“Amongst other things, I’m distributing aid to needy Ukrainians devastated by the war,” he said.
And when pushed further, he declined to answer any questions about how a convicted loyalist terrorist came to be aiding the Ukraine defence forces or even how he came to be in possession of a high-powered sub-machine-gun.
Peeples also refused to say if he had flown to Eastern Europe or had travelled overland on a British or Irish passport.
“That’s none of your business,” he said.
“What I will say though is the poor people of Ukraine are suffering badly. It’s freezing cold out here and they have little or no shelter or even food.
“But they really appreciate everything we are doing for them. They are great people.
“Back home in Northern Ireland people should get down on their knees and thank God for their comfortable lives,” he said.
Just before the line dropped off, Peeples said he hoped to return to Belfast in a few days.
Peeples also posted a picture of his accommodation in Kyiv, where he will be resting before heading back to Belfast.
Fellow loyalist kingpin Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair voiced his support for Peeples.
Adair – who got to know Peeples in the paramilitary wings of the Maze Prison – said: “Fair play to Clifford. He’s standing up for his Christian beliefs by supporting the people of the Ukraine.”
He added: “You’d never have seen Jimmy Craig or any of these other so-called loyalists doing that.”
A one-time fundamentalist Christian pastor who ran his own gospel hall, Peeples hit the headlines in October 1989 when a car he was driving was stopped by anti-terror cops on the M1 motorway near Dungannon.
The Bible-thumping clergyman was arrested along with the well-known loyalist terrorist James McGookin Fisher.
And just six months before, cops found pipe bombs in a Gospel Hall connected to Peeples, but they failed to bring charges against him.
Sentencing Pastor Peeples to 10 years in prison, Mr Justic Gillan told him he was “a grave danger to the community”.
In the past, Peeples has been linked to a plethora of loyalist terror groups, including the UVF, the LVF and two fringe paramilitary groups, the Orange Volunteers – which the police suspected he led – and the shadowy Red Hand Defenders.
Pastor Peebles married a former RUC officer and after settling in Portadown, police suspected him of having close connections to LVF leader Billy Wright who was later murdered inside the Maze Prison.
And it is believed that at one point the RUC was so keen to get Peeples off the streets, police top brass considered bringing a charge of ‘directing terrorism’ against him.
The same charge was used to jail the notorious Ulster Freedom Fighters boss ‘Mad Dog’ Adair.
After a series of close encounters with the law, Peeples was eventually sent down for 10 years when he and James Fisher were convicted of possessing explosives with intent.
It was after his conviction, the press dubbed Peeples ‘The Pipe Bomb Pastor’.
After being released from prison, he went back to education and just before Christmas graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a Masters in Law.
And he has been to the fore in a number of recent high-profile legal actions against the Northern Ireland Protocol, including one at the Supreme Court in London alongside TUV leader Jim Allister.
Clifford Peeples has been associated with hardline loyalism since leaving school.
And he’s been to the fore in numerous campaigns in support of the Union.
However, his one foray into the world of electoral politics failed miserably. In 1996, Peeples received just 43 votes out of a possible 42,000 when he stood for the Northern Ireland Forum.
And the following year he was in the news again when he refused to pay loyalist paramilitaries protection money in connection with a florists business he owned on the Crumlin Road. UVF thugs wrecked his shop.
Peeples also vehemently opposed the Good Friday Agreement, famously setting fire to a copy of the document at a rally in Antrim.
And when it became clear the DUP had altered its position and was moving in favour of sharing-power with nationalists at Stormont, Peeples hurled 30 pieces of silver at DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley at a rally in Loughgall, Co Armagh.
Controversy even followed Peeples into prison. When a well-known dissident prisoner chided him about his weight, he hit him with a hot steam iron.
But following his release from prison in the mid-1990s, his political activities have been entirely peaceful.
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