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IRA Blamed for Belfast Man’s Death

August 25, 1999

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Northern Ireland’s police chief said Wednesday he believes unequivocally that the Irish Republican Army killed a Belfast man last month despite the outlawed group’s official cease-fire.

No charges have been filed in connection with the slaying of Charles Bennett, allegedly targeted for spying on IRA activities within hard-line Catholic parts of Belfast. Bennett, 22, was found on July 25 bound, gagged and shot through the back of the head.

``I have no doubt that the IRA were involved in the murder of Charles Bennett,″ Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said on a local British Broadcasting Corp. program.

But Flanagan labeled it the British government’s job, not his, to determine whether the terms of the IRA’s July 1997 cease-fire had been breached.

Britain’s governor for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, has said she will offer her formal judgment this week on whether the IRA violated its commitments. If so, she must decide whether the outlawed group or its affiliated Sinn Fein party should suffer any penalties.

Sinn Fein is one of four parties participating in the formation of a Protestant-Catholic administration for Northern Ireland, the cornerstone of the Good Friday peace accord of 1998. The formation has been stalled by an argument over the IRA’s refusal to disarm.

The IRA has been blamed for three other killings this year _ of two drug dealers and a former IRA member who wrote a critical expose of the group.

Though media and politicians refer to the IRA’s policy as a cease-fire _ a word that suggests the group should not commit any acts of violence _ the IRA itself has stuck to the phrase ``complete cessation of military operations.″

Analysts suggest the emphasis on the word ``military″ means the IRA has given a commitment only to stop killing British soldiers, Northern Irish police and members of pro-British paramilitary groups.

The IRA suggested as much when, in a formal statement responding to Bennett’s killing, it declined to accept or reject responsibility. ``Let us emphasize that there have been no breaches in the IRA’s cessation, which remains intact,″ the statement said.

Flanagan noted Wednesday that both the IRA and outlawed pro-British groups were inflicting nonlethal beatings and shootings on people within their own militant power bases ``on a nightly basis sometimes.″

In the latest such attack, a 35-year-old man was hospitalized Wednesday suffering from a single gunshot wound to the leg.

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