Pubdate: Sun, 07 Oct 2001
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Liam Clarke


THE IRA has been promised drugs money by Farc, the Colombian terrorist 
group, in return for training its members in urban guerrilla warfare, a 
senior American official has claimed.

The allegation of cash links between the two groups has been made by Bob 
Graham, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee.

Graham's staff said this weekend that his comments were based on CIA 
briefings he had received each day since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Graham, a Democratic senator from Florida, revealed that American 
intelligence had become aware of a network of international alliances 
between terrorist groups and cited the links between the IRA and Farc, 
which has been implicated in cocaine trafficking.

Last month the Colombian army arrested three Irishmen with false passports 
who were returning from the Farc-controlled area in the south. One of them 
was Niall Connolly, accredited by the Cuban government as Sinn Fein's 
permanent representative in Havana.

The men are being held on suspicion of assisting illegal activities and 
using false documents.

British intelligence sources believe that in recent years the IRA has sent 
at least 15 members to Colombia and used the jungle there to test mortars 
and explosives. They say the operation was under the control of Brian 
Keenan, the IRA's deputy chief of staff.

Keenan is also the IRA's liaison man with General John de Chastelain's 
commission on decommissioning terrorist arms in Northern Ireland.

Graham told The Miami Herald that the IRA was teaching the largely rural 
Farc how to fight in towns. "The IRA sent their men to Colombia because 
they [Farc] needed training in urban combat . . . I understand Farc were 
prepared to give financial help to the IRA in return for this training," he 

He also compared Farc to Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, which is 
believed to have carried out the terror attacks on New York and the 
Pentagon. "Farc is doing exactly the same . . . organising itself in small 
cells that are not known to each other and whose attacks depend 
logistically and financially on a central command."

Graham added: "Although Osama Bin Laden is a man of considerable wealth he 
subsidises his activities from heroin trafficking, just as Farc does with 

In Colombia, Farc, which has about 16,500 armed guerrillas and controls an 
area the size of Switzerland, is under pressure. Yesterday it gave an 
undertaking to put an end to the mass kidnappings of civilians for ransom 
and to study the possibility of a ceasefire. Kidnaps averaged more than 10 
a day last year.

Jorge Briceno, known as Mono Jojoy, the Farc commander, was reported after 
the attacks on America to have ordered his group to "combat" the US "until 
we get to their own territory".

One of Briceno's subordinates said last year: "We are ready for the gringo 
imperialists. We will turn this into another Vietnam for them."

The detailed indictment from such a senior figure as Graham, who has no 
history of taking sides on Irish issues, will increase pressure on 
republicans to start decommissioning their weapons. Irish security chiefs 
believe the IRA is now preparing such a move.

Last night a senior source in the Garda, the Irish police, said: "I would 
be surprised if we do not see them disposing of some weapons within the 
next few weeks."

Special Branch sources in Northern Ireland agreed. "The method they have 
chosen is concreting in weapons," one officer said.

Sinn Fein has taken great pains to distance itself from the attacks on 
America. At the party's annual conference Gerry Adams, the president, 
condemned terrorism and denied that the IRA was a terrorist organisation.

Tomorrow the Northern Ireland assembly will debate a unionist motion to 
exclude the republicans because of the IRA's failure to honour its pledge 
to put arms beyond use. This is likely to lead to a third suspension of 

Last night David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, said he intended to 
"manage" the rundown of the assembly. He is understood to want to prolong 
the process to give the IRA another opportunity to start decommissioning.
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