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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Colombian investigation continues
They were named by the Colombian police as David Bracken, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley
The three captured men were shown to the media
Three IRA suspects who are under arrest in Colombia will be held until next week before either being charged or released.

Colombian prosecutors have said they are advancing with their investigation into the three men who are accused of training Marxist rebels.

However, the Colombian army has now admitted it does not have secret film of the trio, Martin McCauley, James Monaghan and another man who has been named as Niall Connolly from Dublin.

They are accused of training members of the guerilla group Farc in bomb-making.

However, it is thought they may also have been exchanging information before they were arrested at the weekend after entering the country in June.

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 leader of the nationalist SDLP, John Hume, has said Sinn Fein needs to clarify the republican position in light of the Columbian arrests.

Mr Hume said the revelations could be damaging to the political situation.

Speaking on Thursday, he said Sinn Fein must clarify the relationship between the IRA and "this very strange organisation (Farc)".

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy likened the allegations to candyfloss and said they should not be used to block demilitarisation.

"I regret that people have used the story that they found on the other side of the world to try to undermine the peace process here," he said.

International law

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

Colombia's minister of defence said: "We are advancing with the investigation, the British authorities are aware and the procedures of international law will be followed."

On Wednesday, Ulster Unionist minister Michael McGimpsey said people no longer had any confidence in the IRA ceasefire following the arrests.

The deputy leader of the anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, Peter Robinson, claimed the IRA suspects were being trained to use a new type of explosive - which is even more powerful than Semtex.

However, there has been no confirmation of this from security sources in Northern Ireland or in Columbia.

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

Implications

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.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey has denied that any of the three men arrested in Colombia were members of Sinn Fein.

He said on Wednesday one of the three, James Monaghan, was a member of the party's executive - but left in 1989 or 1990.

He also said Martin McCauley had been an election worker in Lurgan, but never a member of Sinn Fein.

The third man, who has been named as Niall Connolly, from Dublin, had not been heard of by Sinn Fein before.

Passports

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 proved the men are members of the Provisional IRA, it could have implications for the Northern Ireland peace process and the lengthy negotiations about IRA arms decommissioning.

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.

See also:

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