- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

The Irish Republican Army has helped Marxist guerrillas in Colombia make a "quantum leap" in the proficiency of their terrorist tactics, the chairman of a House committee investigating links between the groups said.
Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said the IRA's suspected involvement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has threatened democracy in that country and U.S. personnel in Colombia.
"Our American presence in Colombia is extensive due to the scope of our drug-fighting aid program," he said. "Americans in Colombia can easily become … victims of the advanced FARC terrorist tactics we are now observing in Colombia, and this may be attributable to the IRA training that the arrest of three Irish nationals last August has exposed."
Mr. Hyde wants top Colombian authorities, a U.S. State Department official and the leader of Sinn Fein to testify at an April 24 hearing on the IRA's suspected training of FARC rebels in Colombia.
Those asked to testify are Gen. Fernando Tapias, chairman of Colombia's Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Luis Ernesto Gilibert, director of the Colombian National Police; Francis Taylor, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism; and Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein.
An unknown number of suspected IRA members have visited Colombia in recent years to train FARC terrorists, according to Colombian authorities and House investigators.
Three suspected IRA members were arrested in August on charges of illegally training FARC rebels. Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley were charged with training FARC to make car bombs and mortars. They were also accused of using false documents to enter Colombia. They are awaiting trial in Bogota.
All three denied the accusations, saying they were in Colombia and visited the FARC-controlled region only to study peace negotiations.
Much of the evidence against the three, Colombian authorities said, is based on information from FARC defectors, including one who told police he was trained in explosives by Mr. McCauley and Mr. Monaghan over a 15-day period.
FARC, on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations, is considered the most dangerous terrorist group in the Western Hemisphere. Since 1980, it has slain 13 Americans and kidnapped more than 100 others.
The Hyde inquiry also is expected to focus on links between the IRA, FARC and Basque separatists known as the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or the ETA. Formed in 1959, the ETA has been involved in bombings and assassinations of Spanish security and military forces, politicians and judicial figures.
The State Department has long believed that the ETA, which has killed more than 800 persons since it began lethal attacks in the early 1960s, has ties to the IRA.
Last week, three FARC leaders named in grand jury indictments handed up in U.S. District Court in Washington were accused of conspiring to export cocaine. It was the first U.S. indictment to name members of the rebel organization, which was established in 1964.
In a letter last week to the Rev. Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus who questioned the committee's IRA hearings, Mr. Hyde said national interests were at stake and Congress "has a right to know what is going on in Colombia."
The congressman said the probe would "explore the global links of international terrorism … including the IRA-terrorist link."
"There are aspects of the interlinkage of many global terrorist networks that use illicit drug proceeds, and possibly even charitable fund raising, to finance terrorism and to support activities that threaten American national interests," he said.


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