Three Real IRA suspects have been extradited to Britain from Slovakia to face terrorism charges. The men, from County Louth in Ireland, will appear at Belmarsh magistrates' court on Friday charged with offences under the Terrorism Act.
Michael McDonald, Declan Rafferty and Fintan O'Farrell were arrested by Slovak police last month in the town of Piestany, where they had allegedly been trying to buy weapons from British agents posing as Arab arms dealers.
Eastern bloc weapons have been found in arms dumps in Ireland in the past three years. Anti-terrorist officers suspect they came from the Bosnian Serb and Yugoslav armies. Caches have included rifles, machine-guns, grenades, pistols and rocket launchers.
The rendezvous followed meetings over previous weeks in several European capitals. Three MI5 men reportedly met the suspects in a private villa on the outskirts of Piestany before 20 of the Slovak police officers pounced.
As news of the extradition came through, the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, said republicans had "destroyed" their credibility with the arrest of three Irishmen in Colombia.
"Very senior members of the republican movement, including those who have graced Sinn Fein platforms in the past, were engaged with Farc, one of the most vicious terrorist organisations in the world. What that does is destroy their credibility. The mountain that republicans have to climb will now be greater."Reuse content