Police charged two Belfast men in connection with the knife slaying of a Catholic civilian, the first breakthrough in an IRA-linked case that has overshadowed Northern Ireland's peace process for months.
Police said the two men, who were arrested Wednesday, were set to be arraigned yesterday in Belfast Crown Court for their alleged roles in killing Robert McCartney, 33, and seriously wounding his friend Brendan Devine outside a Belfast pub on Jan. 30.
The Irish Republican Army initially denied involvement. But after facing public pressure from McCartney's five sisters and fiancee, the group admitted its members committed the attack.
Since then, members of the IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party have faced continued criticism internationally for allegedly covering up evidence and refusing to cooperate with the police investigation.
Police said a 49-year-old man would face a charge of murdering McCartney, while a 36-year-old man would be charged with the attempted murder of Devine.
The two men are the first to face charges in the case. They were among a dozen suspects that had been arrested previously and released without charge after refusing to answer questions.
Witnesses say an IRA unit initially attacked Devine inside the pub, then targeted McCartney when he pulled his friend, bleeding from a neck wound, outside. The gang stabbed McCartney in the neck and stomach and clubbed him in the head with iron bars, then went back inside the pub to mop up blood and other forensic evidence.
They also allegedly took a tape from a surveillance camera and warned witnesses not to talk to police.
The McCartney sisters, who have taken their campaign to the White House and the EU Parliament, said they were initially stunned, then overcome with joy -- but emphasized that their mission for justice still had a long way to go.
"We hope it will lead to further arrests, because there were more than two people involved. We still have a long way to go in terms of a trial and convictions," said Catherine McCartney. "We are happy this has happened, but we know it is by no means over."