By Jack Holland
Colombian officials have disclosed that a defector from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has alleged that the IRA provided missiles and training to the organization, which the U.S. administration labels narco-terrorist.
The disclosures came this week in an article in the newsmagazine Cambio.
It quotes a FARC guerrilla deserter as saying that Irish Republican Army members provided missiles and launchers to Colombian rebels and gave training in explosives and military tactics. A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said the deserter’s testimony was accurately reported by the magazine. However, officials caution that they have not determined if he is telling the truth.
The deserter, identified only as “Alexander,” said that IRA members brought the weapons in boxes aboard two small planes that landed in a rebel safe haven on Aug. 27, 1999.
Three alleged IRA members, Martin McCauley, James Monaghan and Niall Connolly, were seized in Colombia on Aug. 11, 2001. They are under arrest in a Bogota prison awaiting trial on charges of aiding terrorism.
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This is the second occasion since the beginning of January that claims have been made about the testimony of former FARC activists in relation to the three Irishmen. They first appeared on Dec. 29 last year in a security bulletin that is issued for U.S. businessmen traveling to Colombia. It said that the “Attorney General’s Office obtained new testimony from guerrilla deserters who affirmed having received military training from the Irish citizens detained in Bogota last August.”
The House Committee on International Relations is currently investigating the allegations. A source close to the investigation said that the most recent allegations are “part of a pattern of defectors coming forward” and that “nothing in the story is inconsistent with what we know.”
The allegations have roiled relations between Sinn Fein and the Bush administration, which has repeatedly warned the party that it views as ominous any contact between the IRA and FARC.
Appeals have been made to the House Committee not to go forward with the investigation, but the committee chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, has said: “Possible IRA explosives and urban warfare training for the FARC, a designated foreign terrorist organization which kidnaps, targets and kills Americans, as well as supports the illicit drug trade, is not something we can ignore.”