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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
Irish police identify 'IRA suspect'
They were named by the Colombian police as David Bracken, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley
The three captured men were shown to the media
A man believed to be the leader of a group of IRA suspects arrested in Colombia has been positively identified by Irish police.

He was one of three men alleged to have been training Marxist guerrillas in bomb-making.

The commander of the Colombian army has said Northern Ireland police had confirmed the men were IRA members.

Colombian police named two of them as James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, both of whom it is thought have been previously convicted in Britain of terrorism charges and membership of the Provisional IRA.

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 platform party at 1989 Sinn Fein conference
The DUP's Peter Robinson used assembly's privilege to name a James Monaghan as IRA's director of education

Irish Police have now established the identity of the third man, but have not made his name public. He was travelling under the name of David Bracken.

On Tuesday night, Garda commissioner Pat Byrne said all three men were known to them and were believed to be members of the IRA rather than dissident republicans.

If convicted, the three men could face maximum prison terms of 15-20 years, court sources in Colombia have said. However, the men could be deported or extradited.

The Colombian prosecutor's office is due to take statements from the men later on Tuesday and their fate should be decided by the end of this week.

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

The arrests were made by a specialist investigative branch of the Colombian Police, known as the Fiscalia, at the weekend.

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."

If it is confirmed that the men are linked to the Provisional IRA, it could have implications for the Northern Ireland peace process and the lengthy negotiations about IRA arms decommissioning.

The three men are being held for questioning in Colombia's capital of Bogota. They were presented to the media there at a press conference on Monday evening.

The Colombian police said Mr Bracken is alleged to be the leader of the group, and was the only one of the three who spoke Spanish.

Commander-General Mora said forensic tests carried out in Bogota on the men's clothes and luggage allegedly showed that they had been handling explosives and drugs.


Forensic tests were carried out after their capture and they showed they'd been handling explosives, cocaine and amphetamines

General Mora

He said: "They belong to the engineering department of the IRA- those who make the bombs, the explosives and the custom-made weapons.

"Forensic tests were carried out after their capture and they showed they'd been handling explosives, cocaine and amphetamines."

The Royal Ulster Constabulary said on Monday evening that the matter was being handled entirely by the Colombian authorities.

'Journalists'

The Colombian security forces were unable to arrest the men for five weeks because they were in a safe haven agreed by the Colombian government and the revolutionary paramilitary group the Farc.

General Mora said: "They arrived in early June and they stayed five weeks in the area controlled by the Farc guerrillas.

"They said when they were captured that they were journalists, but it became evident during questioning that they weren't.

"Then we found out who they were and which group they belonged to."

'Possible charges'

The Attorney General's Office has suggested the three could face charges of entering the country with false papers and training an illegal army in terrorism.

The training charge carries tough penalties in Colombia.

General Mora said: "I can't tell you what will happen but we do have the evidence of falsification of documents, of identity and of course, there's the matter of the drugs and the explosives.

"Their fate is now in the hands of the Department of Justice."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Claire Marshall
"This looks like being a long legal process"
BBC NI's Barbara Collins
speaks to Columbian Commander-General, Jorge Enrique Mora
Terrorism expert Charles Shoebridge
"The Colombians have taken the decision to arrest at a time that is appropriate to them"
See also:

13 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Welcome to Farclandia
08 Feb 01 | Americas
New Colombia peace effort
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