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Updated

April 20, 2019 20:01:56

Northern Ireland Police have arrested two men in connection with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee during rioting in the city of Londonderry.

Key points:

  • Police believe Lyra McKee was killed by Irish nationalist militants
  • The shooting took place as rioting hit the Irish nationalist Creggan area on Thursday
  • About 50 petrol bombs were thrown in the conflict, with two cars set ablaze

McKee was killed by a gunman shooting in the direction of police officers on Thursday (local time).

She died shortly after tweeting a photo of a police vehicle being pelted by petrol bombs, with the caption: “Derry tonight. Absolute madness”.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland tweeted on Saturday morning that two men, aged 18 and 19, had been arrested under the Terrorism Act in connection with Ms McKee’s murder, and taken to Belfast for questioning.

The men have not been identified or charged.

Police had said earlier there was one gunman who pulled the trigger who had been backed by an “organisation,” and confirmed they were searching for multiple suspects.

Rioting hit the Irish nationalist Creggan area late on Thursday after a raid by police, who said they were trying to prevent militant attacks during the Easter weekend.

At least 50 petrol bombs were thrown and two cars were set on fire.

The attack, which shocked the region, was likely the work of Irish nationalist militants opposed to the 1998 Good Friday peace deal, police said.

Police released CCTV footage showing the man suspected of firing the shots that killed McKee on Friday night.

They appealed for help from the community, stating that people knew the shooter and should help police identify him.

‘An inspiring thinker’

McKee rose to prominence in 2014 with a moving blog post — “Letter to my 14 year old self” — describing the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.

She had recently signed a book deal for two books.

In 2006, McKee was awarded Sky News Young Journalist of the Year and was named as one of the “30 under 30 in media” by Forbes Magazine 10 years later.

She wrote for publications both in Northern Ireland and aboard, including the Independent newspaper, the Atlantic and BuzzFeed News.

In the wake of her death, a number of high profile public figures in Northern Ireland have shared tributes to the young journalist, along with friends, those who had read her work, and the wider community.

“She was an inspiring thinker and journalist,” Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney wrote on Twitter.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, holding a rainbow LGBT flag, said: “I carry this flag for Lyra, an activist, a journalist, a child of the peace process, and a woman who should not have lost her life at the age of 29.”

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster said: “When people come out with guns to shoot people from their own community, then we have to say enough is enough.”

Speaking at a vigil on Friday, the journalist’s partner Sara Canning said McKee’s amazing potential had been snuffed out.

Ms Canning said the senseless murder “has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with.”

“It has left so many friends without their confidante,” she added.

Northern Ireland will not be ‘dragged into the past’

The use of a gun apparently aimed at police marks a dangerous escalation in sporadic violence that continues to plague Northern Ireland 21 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed.

The killing has been condemned by all the major political parties as well as the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland.

Speaking in Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland had chosen peace and cooperation on Good Friday 21 years ago and will not be “dragged into the past” by political violence.

Police said the New IRA dissident group was most likely responsible and called it a “terrorist act”.

The New IRA is a small group who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army’s embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as “The Troubles” that claimed more than 3,700 lives.

The group is also blamed for a Londonderry car bombing that did not cause any injuries in January.

It is regarded as the largest of the splinter dissident groups still operating and has been linked to several other killings in the past decade.

ABC/wires

Topics:

terrorism,

unrest-conflict-and-war,

northern-ireland,

united-kingdom

First posted

April 20, 2019 17:36:22

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