Journalist Lyra McKee shot dead in North Ireland “terror incident”

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Journalist Lyra McKee shot dead in North Ireland “terror incident”
Lyra McKee was one of Northern Ireland's most promising journalists, says the NUJ
Lyra McKee was one of Northern Ireland’s most promising journalists, says the NUJ

(BBC) — A journalist has been shot dead during rioting in Londonderry that police are treating as a “terrorist incident”.

Dissident republicans are being blamed for killing 29-year-old Lyra McKee during rioting after police searches in Derry’s Creggan area on Thursday night.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said the New IRA “are likely to be the ones behind this” and detectives have started a murder inquiry.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the murder was “shocking and senseless”.

Ms McKee was a journalist who “died doing her job with great courage”, added Mrs May.

The PSNI said that a gunman fired shots towards police officers at about 23:00 BST on Thursday.

Mobile phone footage taken by a bystander during Thursday night’s rioting appears to show a masked gunman crouching down on the street and opening fire with a handgun.

Ms McKee, who was standing near a police 4×4 vehicle, was wounded.

“She was taken away from the scene in a police Land Rover to Altnagelvin Hospital but unfortunately she has died,” said Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton.

The leaders of Northern Ireland six biggest political parties said they were “united in rejecting those responsible for this heinous crime”.

In a joint statement, they said: “Lyra’s murder was also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on the peace and democratic processes.

“It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.”

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said Ms McKee was “one of the most promising journalists” in Northern Ireland.

She was a journalist of “courage, style and integrity” and a “woman of great commitment and passion”, said the union’s Séamus Dooley.

“I have no doubt that it was that commitment which led to her presence on the streets of the Creggan last night, observing a riot situation in the city.”

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said: “Our solidarity also goes out to the people of Derry and to the entire journalism community.

“We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past.”

Analysis by Julian O’Neill, BBC News NI home affairs correspondent

Dissident republican activity has been increasing of late, with police in Northern Ireland fearful of a spate of violent incidents marking the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

An intelligence-led operation took them into Londonderry’s Creggan estate late on Thursday night in a hunt for weapons and ammunition.

They were concerned they could be used in the days ahead to attack officers.

The group blamed for killing Lyra McKee is known as the New IRA and was behind a bomb attack outside the city’s courthouse at the start of the year.

The violence broke out after police raids on houses in the Mulroy Park and Galliagh areas in Derry.

“Violent dissident republicans are planning attacks in this city and we were carrying out a search operation in Creggan,” said Mr Hamilton.

Rioting began at Fanad Drive in the city and more than 50 petrol bombs were thrown at police and two vehicles hijacked and set on fire.

“I believe that this was orchestrated – orchestrated to a point that they just want to have violence and attack police,” said Mr Hamilton.

“Bringing a firearm out is a calculated and callous act.”

One reporter who was at the scene said a gunman “came round the corner and fired shots indiscriminately towards police vehicles”.

“There were a number of houses with families – they had all spilled out on the street to see what was happening,” added Leona O’Neill.

“There were young people, there were children on the street, there were teenagers milling about and a gunman just fired indiscriminately up the street.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, tweeted to ask people to pray for Ms McKee’s family.

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