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31 years later, man charged in IRA attack

DUBLIN -- British prosecutors have charged a 61-year-old Irishman with the 1982 IRA attack on the queen's cavalry in Hyde Park, a nail-bombing at a top London tourist attraction that left four soldiers and seven horses dead.

Yesterday's surprise arraignment of John Downey in a London court came on the 15th anniversary of the ratification of the Good Friday peace accord for Northern Ireland, which sought to end three decades of bloodshed over the disputed British territory.

British authorities declined to explain why they arrested Downey as he arrived Sunday at London's Gatwick Airport.

Sinn Fein demanded his immediate release. The Irish nationalist party accused Britain of violating an agreement not to pursue Downey. "

The IRA's main faction, the Provisional IRA, killed nearly 1,800 people during a failed 1970-1997 campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.

In court yesterday, Downey offered no plea and spoke only to confirm his identity as he faced four charges of murder and one count of conspiring to cause an explosion. He is the third man to face trial for the July 20, 1982, twin bomb attacks on troops engaged in entertainment and ceremonial duties. -- AP

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