DUBLIN — A former Irish Republican Army commander was charged Friday in connection with the 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast woman, a politically explosive crime because of its disputed links to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Ivor Bell, 77, was scheduled to be arraigned Saturday on charges of IRA membership and aiding the killers of Jean McConville, a 37-year-old widowed mother of 10 who vanished from her Catholic west Belfast home in December 1972. At the time, Bell was Adams’ superior officer in the Belfast IRA.

For decades, the IRA denied involvement. McConville’s children were told that their mother had abandoned them. But in 1999, as part of Northern Ireland’s unfolding peace process, the outlawed group admitted it killed McConville and more than a dozen other unarmed Catholic civilians billed as “The Disappeared.” They all had been executed secretly in the 1970s and early 1980s and buried in unmarked graves after being accused by the IRA of spying for the British.

Some of McConville’s children long have accused Adams of directly ordering their mother’s killing. Two veteran Belfast IRA members, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, corroborated the children’s claims, saying they attended IRA meetings with Adams in 1972 when the decision to kill McConville was taken.

Hughes accused Adams of commanding an IRA unit called “The Unknowns” that was responsible for making suspected informers disappear. Price said she drove McConville across the border to the Republic of Ireland, where another IRA member shot McConville in the back of the head. Both Hughes and Price since have died.

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