Irish Independent
May 18, 2002

IRA 'trained Farc terrorists'

                                  US information confirms direct involvement with guerrillas in Colombia

                                  THE US State Department has received confidential information
                                  confirming that IRA members have been involved in the training
                                  of Farc guerrillas in Colombia.

                                  The new information, seen by the Irish Independent, was
                                  gathered by US military intelligence in Colombia.

                                  High-ranking US officials have now done an about-face and
                                  accept that new techniques used by Farc bear all the hallmarks of the IRA.

                                  According to one communication between the State Department and military
                                  intelligence, "IRA techniques are in place."

                                  One US government document showed that a detonating device found in the boot of a
                                  car was the same type favoured by the IRA.

                                  This confirmation follows similar statements by UUP leader David Trimble that Farc's
                                  ability to kill had been enhanced by IRA training and is bad news for Sinn Fein right
                                  before the general election.

                                  The Bush administration's special adviser on Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, said
                                  there obviously were links between the IRA and Farc. "We're obviously looking at
                                  what this means and continue to investigate," he said.

                                  He expected to find out more after his trip to Ireland early next month, he said.

                                  Ambassador Haass confirmed that weapons experts and US intelligence have
                                  advised him that Farc's recent round of bombings bears "patterns or hallmarks of IRA

                                  Sinn Fein spokesman, Richard McAuley, on the campaign trail for Sinn Fein, said his
                                  party was not concerned by the public comments of Ambassador Haass.

                                  "His remarks were qualified," said Mr McAuley. "We continue to have a good
                                  relationship with the US government."

                                  The nature of the relationship between Sinn Fein and the US will be tested in the
                                  coming months when the trial of the three Irishmen currently held in Bogota on
                                  suspicion of conducting training for Farc will take place.

                                  Meanwhile, a British newspaper claimed yesterday that an ally of Gerry Adams
                                  travelled to Colombia on a false passport to meet terrorists who were being trained by
                                  the Provisionals in return for drug money.

                                  Padraig Wilson (44) was the leader of IRA prisoners in the Maze prison until he was
                                  freed early in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement. He had served only a third of a
                                  24-year sentence for possession of a car bomb, and his secret trip broke the terms of
                                  his release licence.

                                  The IRA is believed to have received hundreds of thousands in cash from the Marxist
                                  group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) for help in developing terrorist
                                  techniques at least as far back as 1997, when the Provisionals declared a ceasefire.

                                  The Daily Telegraph said its investigation in Colombia and Washington also found
                                  that a Farc witness claimed to have seen James Monaghan, a convicted IRA
                                  explosives expert named under parliamentary privilege as the group's "director of
                                  engineering" unloading boxes of missiles from a private plane in 2000.

                                  Senior Colombian army and police officers said the IRA had greatly helped Farc's

                                  Farc is threatening to bring the country to its knees.

                                  In recent months it has used gas cylinder mortars almost identical to those
                                  developed by the IRA with devastating effect.

                                  On May 2, such a mortar killed 119 people, many of them children, at a church in
                                  Choco province.

                                  Colombian intelligence documents say that Wilson entered Bogota, the capital, on
                                  Air France flight 422 on April 5 last year and flew on by Satena Airlines to San
                                  Vicente del Caguan in Farc territory.

                                  There he was met by guerrilla leaders. He returned to Paris on April 16 by the same

                                  A copy of an Irish passport bearing the name James Edward Walker and a
                                  photograph of Wilson has been passed to the Daily Telegraph by Colombian

                                  Wilson was accompanied on the flights by Niall Connolly, Sinn Fein's representative
                                  in Cuba.

                                  Connolly, Monaghan and Martin McCauley were arrested on August 11, 2001, as
                                  they tried to leave Bogota for Paris.

                                  The presence of such a high-ranking IRA man as Wilson in Colombia is powerful
                                  evidence that training activities were authorised by the terrorist group's top

                                  A surveillance photograph of Wilson taken at San Vicente del Caguan airport was
                                  shown by the Colombian authorities at a House international relations committee
                                  hearing in Washington last month.

                                  Wilson, a former Sinn Fein worker, is a strong supporter and friend of Gerry Adams.

                                  All the IRA men travelling to the Farc zone from Bogota took internal flights with
                                  Satena, the national airline operated by the military.

                                  Before Andres Pastrana, the Colombian president, abandoned the concept of the
                                  Farc zone in February, civilian passengers were greeted by armed Farc members.

                                  Emphasising that Wilson's trip was sanctioned by the IRA leadership, a senior
                                  British diplomatic source said: "You don't get much more senior than Wilson. This
                                  came right from the top."

                                  Mr Adams has said that neither he "nor anyone else in the Sinn Fein leadership were
                                  aware that the three men [Connolly, Monaghan and McCauley] were travelling to

                                  Susan Garraty in Washington