BBC reporters arrested in Irish paramilitary probe

DUBLIN Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:34pm GMT

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish police arrested 11 men including some BBC journalists over the weekend as part of a probe into paramilitary activity, the police and the BBC said on Sunday.

Seven men aged between 30 and 48 were arrested in Donegal, a county in the northwest of the Republic of Ireland that borders the British province of Northern Ireland, as part of an investigation into paramilitary activity, the police said.

In a later statement they said a further four men had been arrested and detained under the Offences Against the State Act.

The British public broadcaster said its journalists were among the 11 arrested.

"The journalists were working on a BBC Northern Ireland current affairs investigation and had full editorial authority under the BBC's guidelines," the BBC said on its news.bbc.co.uk Web site.

"A spokesperson said the other parties present were fully aware that they were with BBC journalists," the BBC said.

Northern Ireland is recovering from decades of conflict between paramilitary groups from the Protestant majority, which wants to remain under British rule, and mainly Catholic organisations which want the province to join the Republic.

The violence, in which more than 3,600 people were killed in three decades, has subsided, and a power-sharing executive was installed last year. But police in the province warned last month of an "increased terrorist threat" and stepped up security operations.

Irish Republican Army (IRA) guerrillas pledged in 2005 to disarm but much smaller dissident groups such as the Real IRA and Continuity IRA remain active.

Investigations related to the conflict have often involved authorities in the Republic, but it is rare for journalists to be arrested.

(Reporting by Andras Gergely, editing by Tim Pearce)

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