Northern Ireland

'IRA spy' Stakeknife: Scappaticci released on police bail

Fred Scappaticci Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Fred Scappaticci denies he was an Army agent within the IRA

The man alleged to have been the Army's highest-ranking IRA agent has been released on police bail after four days of questioning.

Fred Scappaticci, 72, was arrested on Tuesday morning and was being held at a secret location.

He was being questioned about allegations that he was involved in dozens of murders.

Police said the 72-year-old "is on bail to return to police custody at a date in the near future".

West Belfast man Mr Scappaticci has been named as the agent codenamed Stakeknife.

'Complex investigation'

The investigation into the alleged activities of the man believed to have been the Army's highest-ranking agent in the IRA is known as Operation Kenova and is being led by Chief Constable Jon Boutcher, from Bedfordshire Police.

It is examining the activities of current and former police officers, members of the Army and MI5 and former members of the IRA.

The operation involves a team of 48 detectives from police forces in Britain because some of the allegations being investigated involve current and former police officers in Northern Ireland.

The inquiry is being funded by the PSNI, but Chief Constable George Hamilton has said he does not have any direct control or input.

Mr Boutcher said on Friday that the 72-year-old's arrest "was a significant step in what continues to be an incredibly complex and wide-ranging investigation".

"My team is continuing to speak with witnesses and victims' families and we are exploring a huge number of lines of enquiry," he added.

"I cannot stress enough how important it has been for people to come forward to speak to the investigation team.

"It is very clear to me that there are many who see now as the right time to speak and help us get to the truth for the victims' families.

"They deserve to know what happened to their loved ones."

Who is Stakeknife?

Fred Scappaticci is alleged to have been the most high-ranking British agent within the Provisional IRA, who was given the codename Stakeknife.

He was the grandson of an Italian immigrant who came to Northern Ireland in search of work.

Image caption Mr Scappaticci left Northern Ireland when identified by the media as Stakeknife in 2003

He has admitted, in the past, to being a republican but denies claims that he was an IRA informer.

He is believed to have led the IRA's internal security unit, known as "the nutting squad", which was responsible for identifying and interrogating suspected informers.

Mr Scappaticci left Northern Ireland when identified by the media as Stakeknife in 2003.

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