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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 01:04 GMT 02:04 UK
IRA suspects 'gave rebels bomb training'
The three captured men were shown to the media
The three deny links with the Colombian guerrillas
The three alleged IRA men arrested in Colombia were training leftist guerrillas in how to use the explosive Semtex, a news magazine in Colombia has claimed.

Sunday's edition of the Cambio magazine said it had incriminating transcripts of intercepted radio messages from the

We have to take advantage of this training for everyone... I think the best thing would be if someone from each zone came here

FARC commander Jorge Briceno
guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In one of the transcripts, the FARC commander Jorge Briceno is alleged to tell a radio operator to pass a message to a lieutenant about the three men "who've come from very far away, he knows who I'm talking about".

"It's very interesting this Semtex. It's a very big thing and they have it and they know how to use it. We have to take advantage of this training for everyone... I think the best thing would be if someone from each zone came here," the transcript read.

Denials

The three men, James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connelly, were arrested as they tried to leave Colombia after spending five weeks in an area under guerrilla control.

All three have denied any links with the Provisional IRA or the FARC.

They are reported to have told Colombian officials they were in the area as tourists or journalists.

Analysts say the alleged transcripts will add to worries in Colombia that the FARC, which is much stronger in the countryside, is preparing the skills and weapons to attack cities.

Background
Martin McCauley won five-figure sum in damages against RUC after shoot-to-kill incident
He received a suspended sentence for possessing rifles
James Monaghan appeared on party platform at 1989 Sinn Fein conference
The latest allegations come as the Colombian authorities decide whether to charge the three men, extradite them or release them.

This will depend on how much evidence, if any, the authorities have gathered.

If charged and convicted, the trio could face maximum prison terms of 15 to 20 years, court sources in Colombia have said.

Two of the men were travelling on British passports, the other was holding an Irish passport.

Colombian Commander-General Jorge Enrique Mora told the BBC: "It has been confirmed to us by the authorities in Northern Ireland that they are IRA."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker:
"US would consider links between the IRA and guerrillas as troubling"
See also:

19 Aug 01 | Americas
IRA 'deportation' remains unclear
18 Aug 01 | Americas
IRA suspects 'to be deported'
17 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Who are IRA suspects?
16 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Colombia suspects deny IRA links
Internet links:


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