- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

LONDON Irish Republican Army commanders bought a consignment of powerful new Russian assault rifles in Moscow last year, flagrantly breaching the Good Friday cease-fire agreement at a time when they were supposed to be putting their arsenal beyond use.
The commanders bought at least 20 AN-94s, which can fire 1,800 bullets a minute and pierce body armor. The weapons can be used as traditional machine guns or in sniper mode as high-velocity rifles for assassinations.
The deal was detected by the Russian security services, which passed details to British military intelligence in London. Cabinet ministers and senior Northern Ireland politicians were briefed on the purchase.
Details remained secret, however, until they were disclosed to the Sunday Telegraph by military intelligence officers in London last week.
Military intelligence officers said in interviews that a senior IRA team was sent to Moscow last fall to buy the weapons from a renegade group of Russian special forces officers.
One said the weapons were bought so the IRA could "continue to be a well-oiled machine."
Critics said the report was evidence of the IRA continuing to build up an arsenal, despite twice handing over arms to a decommissioning body headed by Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain.
"The Good Friday agreement is a sham if the IRA are handing in weapons with one hand and buying them again with the other," said Quentin Davies, the opposition Conservative Party's spokesman on Northern Ireland issues.
Ian Paisley Jr., a Democratic Unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said: "The security forces told me the IRA tried to bring these weapons in on two occasions. I know they failed the first time, but it appears they succeeded on the second. This is more clear evidence that the IRA is not on cease-fire and Sinn Fein should not be in government."
Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, is part of a power-sharing Cabinet for Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said two weeks ago that he was delighted by the latest IRA act of decommissioning. "This is very welcome news which shows IRA decommissioning was not an isolated event," he said.

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