Prominent Irish Republican Colin Duffy has been charged with the murders of two British soldiers in Northern Ireland earlier this month.

Duffy, 41, was charged with two criminal counts of murder and five of attempted murder during a high-security appearance at a court in Larne. publisher Niall O’Dowd, who played a key part in the American role in the 1996 Northern Ireland Peace Process said: “The fact that Colin Duffy has been charged is very significant. We knew he had broken away from Sinn Fein but not that he had allegedly returned to violence.”

The court was crowded with dozens of Duffy’s supporters who cheered as he was led away handcuffed to a PSNI officer under the armed guard of another six officers.

Outside was a different story as an angry group shouted “murdering scum” and one man tried to punch the windows of a car which took Duffy away.

Duffy had been in police custody since March 14, just seven days after the two soldiers were killed at their base while waiting on a pizza delivery. Patrick Azimkar (21) and Mark Quinsey (23) died in a hail of bullets as two masked men opened fire on the soldiers. Another soldier and the two pizza couriers were also injured in the attack.

Duffy is the first person to be charged in connection with the March 7 shooting which was the first fatal attack on the British army since the 1997 ceasefire.

The Real IRA, a breakaway group which is opposed to Northern Ireland's peace process, claimed responsibility