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Queen, Former IRA Commander Shake Hands

Queen Elizabeth greets Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, in Belfast on June 27.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander have shaken hands in a symbolic gesture of reconciliation 14 years after the IRA ended its armed struggle against British rule of Northern Ireland.

The queen met privately in Belfast with Martin McGuinness, who is now deputy prime minister in Northern Ireland's unity government.

The two shook hands first behind closed doors and then a second time in front of the cameras.

Some 3,600 people, including more than 1,000 British soldiers, were killed during three decades of sectarian violence between Roman Catholic nationalists, who want a united Ireland, and Protestant Unionists, who want Northern Ireland to stay inside the United Kingdom.

The so-called "Troubles" ended with the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP