Journalist shot dead in Derry during rioting in the city

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Lyra McKee

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Lyra McKee was one of Northern Ireland’s most promising journalists, says the NUJ

A journalist has been shot dead during violence 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.

Petrol bombs were also thrown at police Land Rovers.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the New IRA “are likely to be the ones behind this” and detectives have started a murder inquiry.

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Media captionLyra McKee’s murder was a horrendous act, says PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton

He said that a gunman fired shots towards police at about 23:00 BST and Ms McKee, who was standing near a police vehicle, was wounded.

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

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 assistant general secretary 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.”

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.

Read more: Dissidents had shown violent intentions

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.

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Media captionIt is understood police were attacked after carrying out searches in the Creggan area of Londonderry. Footage courtesy of Leona O’Neill

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.”

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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.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said the “intolerable actions” of those behind Ms McKee’s murder were “rejected by the overwhelming majority of people who want to build a peaceful and more prosperous future for everyone in Northern Ireland”.

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

Sinn Féin’s vice-president Michelle O’Neill said she was “shocked and saddened at the tragic news”, adding: “I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: “Heartbreaking news. A senseless act. A family has been torn apart.”

The SDLP’s Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan tweeted: “Just leaving Creggan, heartbroken and angry at the senseless loss of a young life.

“Violence only creates victims, that’s all it ever has done. The thoughts and prayers of our city are with the young woman’s family and friends, may she rest in peace.”





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