The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 May 2005

Columbian Bombings Bear IRA Trademarks

Still On The Loose

Are Escaped Irishmen Still Inside Columbia?

Three captured Irishmen sent to Columbia by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, only to be caught aiding Marxist rebels, may still be in the country after their vanishing act left local authorities baffled.

All three were rounded up in August 2001, but escaped about five months ago. They were in the process of appealing their 17-year prison sentences when they disappeared.

Now an analysis of recent village bombings by Marxist FARC revolutionaries shows evidence of IRA weapons technology. Did they escape back into rebel-controlled territory, to continue their work aiding FARC?

Despite an international warrant issued by Columbia and reports they've fled the country, it's not clear whether that actually occurred. They could well be developing more advanced weaponry for the rebels, or could be on the beach in Fiji.

Nobody seems to have any idea. Doesn't that seem strange?

It does seem hard to believe the three could board a commercial flight out of the country without Columbian officials being aware of it. Did they allow them to escape?

Sinn Fein, as well as Irish government officials, have long been suspicious about the circumstances behind their convictions and escape from Columbia. The twists and turns of this confusing situation are chronicled here in a December 2004 BBC report.

PIRA members have certainly worked with overseas movements on weapons purchases in the past, but this expedition was seen as part of an attempt to build sympathy and solidarity with other revolutionary groups, around the world.

The three captured men claimed they were observing Columbia's peace process and engaging in ecotourism in the country.

(BBC- 8 May 2005- Jeremy McDermott)

Gen Carlos Ospina said there was no doubt Revolutionary Armed Forces (Farc) rebels were using IRA techniques in a counter-offensive launched in February.

The three Irishmen were convicted of helping train Farc rebels in explosives and terrorist techniques.

They are now on the run and thought to have skipped the country.

The armed forces chief said the Farc guerrillas were employing new technology in the home-made mortars they had recently used to bomb towns in the south-western province of Cauca.

Security forces had seized rebel grenades that were copies of those manufactured by the Provisional IRA, Gen Ospina added.

The guerrilla actions have caught the military by surprise.

The three Irishmen caught the Colombian police similarly by surprise when they disappeared after their convictions.

James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley vanished while on bail in December awaiting the outcome of an appeal against their 17-year sentences.


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