A former Sinn Fein official recently exposed as a British spy was found fatally shot Tuesday after apparently being tortured, police said an act certain to send shock waves through Northern Ireland's peace process at a critical moment.
Denis Donaldson, Sinn Fein's former legislative chief in the failed power-sharing government of Northern Ireland, admitted in December he had been on the payroll of the British secret service and the province's anti-terrorist police for the previous two decades. He then went into hiding because the traditional Irish Republican Army punishment for informing is death.
The IRA quickly denied responsibility. "The IRA had no involvement whatsoever in the death of Denis Donaldson," the outlawed group's one-line statement read.
Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, said he did not know who was responsible, but suggested it might have been the work of IRA dissidents opposed to Sinn Fein's diplomatic efforts.
"It is likely that his death at this time is intended to undermine current efforts to make political progress," Adams said. "Those who carried out this murder are clearly opposed to the peace process", reports AP.
According to the Telegraph, his body was discovered near the village of Glenties, not far from a run-down cottage which had become his home since he was expelled from Sinn Fein after admitting working for British intelligence for more than 25 years.
There are unconfirmed reports from the scene that the killers cut off one of Mr Donaldson's hands.
Irish police sealed off the area as forensic experts were called in to carry out an inspection. A pathologist was also called to the scene to carry out a post-mortem examination.
Mr Donaldson, 56, was a convicted IRA bomber who spent time in prison with Gerry Adams, now Sinn Fein leader, and was head of Sinn Fein administration at Stormont.
But at the end of last year it emerged that he had in fact been a mole for the British inside the IRA for two decades.
The Americans came to realise that they would have to either leave the region or weaken their presence there. It is Russia that is filling the vacuum now