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Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was ‘caught up in IRA bomb in London'

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has said that the north's peace process has been a "great inspiration". Picture by Hugh Russell
John Monaghan

THE President of Colombia has described how he was caught up in an IRA attack while working in London.

Juan Manuel Santos, who visited Belfast last week, said he never believed the IRA and British government would reach an agreement.

"I was walking with the boss to Piccadilly and a bomb exploded. It was in a dustbin, I remember it very well because we were shocked," Mr Santos told the BBC.

"I was in Belfast seeing how people are still trying to reconcile and it has been a great inspiration for me and for the peace process in Colombia."

He added: "Many of the elements of the Northern Ireland peace process, I applied in the Colombian peace process."

Mr Santos met First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont on Thursday before meeting with Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

He also attended a business and civic lunch at the Titanic Centre and took a tour of the Girdwood community hub on a peace line in the north of the city.

Several political figures from Northern Ireland have been involved in assisting the Colombian leader and left-wing rebel group Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) reach a peace deal.

Mr Santos is currently attempting to revive the landmark agreement, signed after four years of negotiations, following its narrow rejection in a referendum last month.

The Colombian president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts just days after the referendum.

More than 220,000 people were killed in the conflict in Colombia, which lasted 52 years, with more than eight million driven from their homes.

Mr Santos has not indicated whether he intends to continue pursuing the case of the Colombia Three, the three Irishmen convicted of training Farc rebels in 2004 and sentenced to 17 years in jail.

Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley escaped Colombia while on bail and later returned to the Republic, where it is understood they are still living.

The arrests caused a crisis in the north's peace process.

President Santos' cousin, Francisco Santos, who was the country's vice-president at the time of the convictions, said at the time that if the Republic did not extradite the three men then they should serve their sentences in an Irish jail.

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