Colombian army fears links between Farc, Eta and IRA

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The Independent Online

Fears that a terrorist web is forming between the Basque separatists Eta, the Provisional IRA and Colombia's Marxist rebels are growing after last week's arrest in Colombia of three suspected IRA members.

Security agents in Bogota pointed to links between Colombia's extreme left and armed groups from 18 countries, but were most concerned at the possibility of Colombian insurgents concentrating their attacks on cities after adapting the urban terrorism tactics of Eta and the IRA.

"The Farc is like a sponge, absorbing international terrorism," a Colombian Army officer told reporters. "It has sufficient money and drugs to pay for the most sophisticated armaments, training, and most hi-tech communications."

But senior Colombian officials were sceptical about British press reports at the weekend suggesting that Farc was providing IRA guerrillas with know-how on a "mortar-fired super bomb". Accuracy is notoriously lacking in Farc's characteristic cooking-gas-cylinder missiles.

The Colombian army claims that witnesses confirmed that 30 Cubans and at least 10 Venezuelan mercenaries are now integrated in Farc ranks, and that Eta advisers have been detected in the past.

General Martin Carreño, who heads the Colombian Army's Fifth Brigade, said on the Bogota channel NTC: "It seems that, along with the three Irishmen detained last week, there have also been other members of the IRA and the Basque separatist movement, Eta, entering the country." He declined to elaborate "because it could slow the investigations that my units are going ahead with".

Sources in Bogota said the National Liberation Army had contacted a group of Eta specialists in car bombs and handling explosives. With 5,000 guerrillas, the army has less than a third of the manpower of Farc, which controls 40 per cent of the country and allegedly invited the three IRA explosive experts to their safe haven for five weeks.

James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly, the three men detained at Bogota airport after flying from San Vicente de Caguan, the Farc stronghold, are expected to be held in a maximum security prison in Bogota until Wednesday. The sole evidence against the three are minute traces of explosives, cocaine, and amphetamines found on their clothing and luggage.