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EDITIONS
Friday, 7 June, 2002, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Inquiry officers seek US extradition
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
Detectives in Northern Ireland investigating a break-in at Belfast's police headquarters are seeking the extradition of a man from the United States.

A Special Branch officer was assaulted when three men entered an office inside the Castlereagh complex in east Belfast on 17 March.

The man police want to question left his job in the kitchens at Castlereagh a number of weeks before the incident.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan said he was not prepared to comment on the detailed evidence supporting moves to seek the man's extradition.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
John Reid: Ordered an inquiry into the security breach

"We are carrying out a criminal investigation," he said.

"We are looking at evidence and that has led us to a series of actions and conclusions over the last few months and we will continue to pursue that.

"A file is being prepared for consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions to seek the extradition of an individual currently in the United States."

Mr McQuillan also confirmed that officers from the Metropolitan Police had been brought in to review the investigation.

The review is expected to last up to three months.

Among the documents taken in the security breach was an index book listing the ranks, names and telephone numbers of Special Branch officers.

However, the information taken did not include their addresses.

Denials

Details on other officers not attached to Special Branch were also listed in the book.

Special Branch officers have been briefed and told that the threat assessment following the breach was being upgraded.

However, officers were not advised to leave their homes.

Security sources have said there was no other major line of inquiry than that linking the IRA to the security breach.

Despite denials by Sinn Fein, security sources are continuing to link the IRA to the raid.

However, a republican source told the BBC that the IRA leadership "categorically denied" any involvement in the incident.

In April, detectives investigating the breach travelled to the United States to question a former employee at the complex.

Anti-terrorism role

Detectives had been liaising with the American authorities.

Two separate investigations into the incident are taking place - the police's own and an inquiry by former senior civil servant Sir John Chilcot who will report directly to Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.

Days after the breach, it emerged that the office was only moved to that room from another part of the building a week previously because the complex was being refurbished.

Special Branch deals with intelligence work, some relating to informers, and has an anti-terrorism role in Northern Ireland.

One of the main police centres for the interrogation of terrorist suspects was located at Castlereagh. It closed at the end of 1999.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Thorne
"The man they are after is known as Larry the chef"
See also:

08 Apr 02 | N Ireland
07 Apr 02 | N Ireland
06 Apr 02 | N Ireland
03 Apr 02 | N Ireland
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