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Northern Ireland man charged with commanding IRA faction, faces Londonderry court Monday

Police say they have charged a Northern Ireland man with directing an Irish Republican Army faction, an unusual charge that suggests detectives believe they have caught a senior militant.

The 38-year-old man has been in police custody since his arrest early Friday in an Irish nationalist part of north Belfast. He is expected to be publicly identified at his arraignment Monday in Londonderry, Northern Ireland's second-largest city, on charges of directing terrorism and IRA membership.

Lawmakers created the "directing terrorism" charge in the early 1990s to target commanders of Northern Ireland's outlawed paramilitary groups. In the past decade it has been used against several alleged leaders of IRA splinter groups that oppose Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant government and wider peacemaking efforts.

The major faction, the Provisional IRA, renounced violence in 2005.

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