Ireland unit seeking secret IRA graves finds body

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DUBLIN (AP) — Forensic experts searching for the long-hidden graves of Irish Republican Army victims found the remains Wednesday of a body during a month-long search, the latest in a long line of grim discoveries that seek to resolve old grievances of the Northern Ireland conflict.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains said it could not confirm yet whether the remains found near a drainage ditch in boggy farmland northwest of Dublin near Oristown, County Meath, represents a member of its list of missing IRA abduction victims.

The expert group was established in 1999 as part of Northern Ireland's peace process to pinpoint the unmarked graves of up to 14 people kidnapped, tortured and secretly buried by the outlawed IRA from 1972 to 1981.

Previous searches inspired by IRA tipoffs have found the confirmed remains of seven IRA victims. But seven others — six Catholic civilians and an undercover British Army officer — have yet to be found.

Wednesday's discovery occurred in a field that an IRA source has identified as the likely resting place of Brendan Megraw, a 23-year-old native of Catholic west Belfast who disappeared in 1978. The IRA later accused him of being a British agent, a claim rejected by his family.

The experts often have had to mount multiple searches, extending the geographic scope each time, in response to vague details provided by IRA veterans. Three previous searches in the Oristown area failed to find Megraw, most recently in 2010. The new search involving ground-penetrating radar began in late August.

Other searches are continuing elsewhere in rural Meath for the remains of three other IRA victims.

The IRA for decades denied killing any of the 14, but the underground organization admitted responsibility for killing most of them in 1999 as part of wider peacemaking initiatives.

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