14/08/2001

Trio detained in Colombia are IRA suspects

Three men captured in Colombia, allegedly travelling on false British and Irish passports, are IRA members, according to the commander of the Colombian army.

A specialist investigative branch of the Colombian Police, known as the Fiscalia, arrested the three men, in Bogotá El Dorado airport on Saturday August 11.

It has been alleged the men, who have been previously convicted in Britain of terrorism charges and membership of the Provisional IRA, were training local FARC Marxist rebels in explosives and terrorist tactics.

Colombian Defence Minister Senor Gustavo Bell told a news conference the three were arrested in Bogotá on Saturday after spending five weeks training members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Colombian officials have also claimed forensic tests on the clothing of the three turned up traces of fours kinds of explosives and drugs.

All three men are understood to be residents of Northern Ireland. Colombian authorities have identified two of the men as Martin McCauley and James Monaghan. The third man, whose identity has yet to be confirmed, was travelled under the name David Bracken. According to Colombian newspaper El Espectador, the name David Bracken belongs to a minor who passed away in 1965. The same report indicates that according to the National Army, David Bracken is the most important terrorist of the three captured and is the only one who can speak fluent Spanish.

Colombian Commander-General Jorge Enrique Mora told the BBC: “It has been confirmed to us by the authorities in Northern Ireland that they are the IRA. They belong to the engineering department of the IRA – those who make the bombs, the explosives and the custom-made weapons”.

UK security sources have confirmed the Colombian authorities had been in contact with the RUC about the three IRA suspects, exchanging fingerprint tests and photographic material.

The fate of the three men is not clear. No extradition requests have been made.

If convicted under the Colombian penal code the men could be faced with up to 20 years in jail.

The Colombian Attorney General’s office has said in five days the legal situation of the alleged terrorists will be known. (AMcE)

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