An off-duty journalist was killed after shots were fired during rioting in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry overnight, an attack that shocked the province and police said was likely the work of nationalist militants.
Rioting erupted in the Irish nationalist Creggan area of the city late on Thursday following a raid by police, who said they were trying to prevent militant attacks over the weekend. At least 50 petrol bombs were thrown and two cars set on fire.
“Unfortunately at 11 o’clock last night a gunman appeared and fired a number of shots towards the police and a young woman, Lyra McKee, 29 years old, was wounded” and later died, Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told journalists yesterday.
McKee, a journalist whose work has been published in magazines and newspapers both in Northern Ireland and abroad, was writing a book on the disappearance of young people during the three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, which ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal.
The European Commission yesterday condemned the killing of McKee.
“The death of Lyra McKee in last night’s suspected terrorist incident in Londonderry is shocking and truly senseless,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.
Described by her publisher Faber as a rising star of investigative journalism, McKee’s death was condemned by both Irish nationalist and pro-British unionist politicians.
“We are all full of sadness after last night’s events. We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in a statement.
Police said they were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and had opened a murder inquiry. The New IRA group, which has been responsible for several attacks in recent years, was most likely behind the killing , Assistant Chief Constable Hamilton said.
Saoradh, a political party with links to dissident militants, said in a statement it understood McKee was standing close to police and was killed accidentally by a “Republican Volunteer.”