- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

BELFAST ETA, the Basque terror group targeting foreign tourists in Spain, has recently supplied the Irish Republican Army with fresh stocks of plastic explosives, according to detectives in Northern Ireland.
The shipment in direct breach of the 1997 Good Friday Agreement is worrying security forces who fear that the IRA may be exporting bomb-making technology in return.
The British security service has monitored trips by senior IRA personnel to the Continent this year, where it is believed they met ETA representatives.
ETA, which is fighting for the independence of the Basque region from Spain, is behind a series of recent explosions aimed at vacationers.
The batch of explosives, delivered to the IRA within the past year, is thought to be the American-made C4, a highly efficient bomb-making material.
Detectives believe the shipment will allow the IRA to make a symbolic gesture by handing over some of its out-of-date Semtex explosive without losing its bombing capabilities. The handover, expected later this summer, would also enable the IRA to claim that it was fulfilling a key demand of the pro-British Unionists, even though the explosives that are given up will be beyond their useful life.
One senior official said over the weekend: "It would actually help the IRA if they handed over some or all of their Semtex shortly. It would be like a normal householder dumping a fridge or freezer at the local dump, leaving the council with the tricky problem of disposing of it.
"The IRA has been aware of the problem for some time and has been making bombs with unusually large amounts of Semtex."
ETA is likely to have obtained the new C4 explosives from the FARC guerillas in Colombia, who form the richest terrorist group in the world because of their sideline in cocaine trafficking.
Three IRA men are still in detention in Colombia after being caught there reportedly training FARC members.
The arrest in Colombia last August of James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, suspected of being IRA figures, has heightened concerns at the triangular relationship among the three terrorist groups. Of the three, the IRA has the most experience in bomb-making, and that has fueled suspicions it has played a role in ETA's bombing campaign at Spanish resorts.
Also arrested was Niall Connolly, regarded by Cuban authorities as the local reprentative of Sinn Fein, the legal, political wing of the IRA. He speaks fluent Spanish and has studied in Spain.
Mr. Monaghan is regarded by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as the most senior figure in the IRA's bomb-making hierarchy. He is particularly skillful at adaptions of everyday components for use in the construction of deadly devices.
Mr. McCauley is also considered a specialist bomb-maker, while Mr. Connolly was considered to be acting as an interpreter for the trip into the 18,000 square miles of territory controlled by FARC.
In October 2000, an Interpol conference in France discussed the link between ETA and the IRA. ETA emerged in the late 1970s as the most violent faction in Basque nationalism and contacts developed with the Provisional IRA. In 1979 Ruairi O Bradaigh, then president of Sinn Fein, addressed a meeting of ETA supporters in a Basque village.
It was suspected that in 1988 ETA may have supplied the explosives for three IRA members killed in Gibraltar by British special forces while attempting a major strike aganist a military target.


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