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Three men arrested over N.Ireland police officer’s shooting

By AFP - Feb 23,2023 - Last updated at Feb 23,2023

Police forensics officers work at the scene of a shooting of an off-duty policeman at the Killyclogher Road sports complex in the northern Irish town of Omagh on Thursday (AFP photo)

BELFAST — Police in Northern Ireland said Thursday that they had arrested three men over the shooting of an off-duty officer, after declaring “violent dissident republicans” the “prime focus” of their investigation.

“This morning we have arrested three men, aged 38, 45 and 47” in connection with the attempted murder of the officer on Wednesday, Chief Constable Simon Byrne told a press conference.

The shooting, condemned by politicians as “outrageous and shameful”, was carried out by two men in the town of Omagh in County Tyrone late Wednesday.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, a high-profile officer who has led major investigations, was taken to hospital and is in a “critical but stable” condition after being shot multiple times at a sports complex just before 8:00pm (2000 GMT), police said.

Officers in Northern Ireland are subject to sporadic attacks that were once common in the region, which was plagued by decades of sectarian violence known as the Troubles before the signing of peace accords in 1998.

Byrne called the attack “brazen and calculated”, adding it had left colleagues “extremely distressed”.

Caldwell had been coaching a youth football group, which included his son, and was putting balls into the back of his car when he was attacked, Byrne said.

Youngsters waiting to be picked up from the practice fled for cover, with locals on the scene administering first aid, he added.

Tensions are currently running high in the province, with unionists loyal to the UK collapsing its power-sharing government to protest post-Brexit trading rules, which they say are distancing Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.




“The investigation is at an early stage, we are keeping an open mind,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan told BBC Radio Ulster on Thursday.

“The primary focus is on violent dissident republicans, and within that there is a primary focus as well on New IRA.”

The New IRA, a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army, has admitted responsibility for two attacks in recent years.

Politicians from across the deep divide, including the deputy leader of the pro-Ireland party Sinn Fein, Michelle O’Neill, and the pro-UK Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson, issued a statement condemning the attack.

“We extend our heartfelt solidarity to DCI John Caldwell and his family after yesterday evening’s cowardly gun attack which has left him critically injured,” the joint statement said.

“We stand united in our outright condemnation of this attack... yesterday evening in front of his son and other children and young people,” it added.

“We speak for the overwhelming majority of people right across our community who are outraged and sickened by this reprehensible and callous attempted murder. Those responsible must be brought to justice.”

O’Neill earlier called the attack “outrageous and shameful” while UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted that he was “appalled by the disgraceful shooting”.

Omagh was the scene of one of the worst incidents of the Troubles, when a dissident group of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a car bomb on August 15, 1998, leaving 29 dead and 220 injured.

The New IRA has been linked to two attacks in recent years, including the planting of a bomb under a policewoman’s car in April 2021.

The group had also admitted being responsible for the death of Lyra McKee, a journalist killed in April 2019 while covering clashes in the city of Londonderry.

The group apologised to the relatives of the young woman, saying that she was alongside the police.


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