Northern Ireland news

Police reviewing ‘New IRA claim of responsibility' for detective's shooting

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell (PA)
Rebecca Black, PA

Police in Northern Ireland are reviewing an unverified claim of responsibility by the New IRA for the shooting of an off-duty police officer.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell has been fighting for his life in hospital since he was shot in front of his young son in Co Tyrone last Wednesday.

He was targeted at a sports centre in Omagh, where he coaches a youth football team, by, police believe, two gunmen who fired multiple shots.

Last week, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they believe the attack was terror-related, describing the New IRA as their primary line of inquiry.

Six men, aged 22, 38, 43, 45, 47 and 71, are being questioned in police custody.

On Sunday night, a typed message appeared on a wall in Derry, purportedly from the New IRA and claiming responsibility for Mr Caldwell's attempted murder.

It was signed by “T O'Neill” – a name previously used by the dissident terrorist group.

It said: “The Irish Republican Army claim responsibility for the military operation targeting senior Crown Force member John Caldwell.

“An active service unit of the IRA were in position to target the enemy within our chosen kill zone with other armed volunteers giving cover.

“All volunteers returned safely to base.

“Irish Republican Army intelligence are now in possession of security information regarding the out of bounds movement of Crown Force personnel.

“We would say this, you still have to try and live a normal life day-to-day, one of these days the IRA will be waiting. T O'Neill.”

On Monday, Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said: “Police are aware of the claim of responsibility.

“We are currently reviewing its contents as part of the overall investigation.

“On Friday, we confirmed that we were treating the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell as terrorist-related and our primary line of enquiry was the New IRA.”

On Saturday, people gathered in the village of Beragh and in nearby Omagh to show their solidarity with Mr Caldwell.

Later that day, there was a security alert in Beragh.

On Monday morning, police said the security alert, in Dervaghroy Road, had ended.

A number of airsoft guns were recovered.

All roads have reopened.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, thanked the people of Omagh and the political parties for their support.

Chairman Liam Kelly said the federation was heartened to see politicians stand with Chief Constable Simon Byrne on Friday, and crowds turn out in solidarity with Mr Caldwell in Omagh and Beragh on Saturday.

“We saw this entire community and the five political parties speaking with one voice in their condemnation of the terrorists who were responsible for the barbaric gun attack,” he said.

“It was heartening to witness this level of support for John and his family and for the work that police officers do on behalf of our entire community.

“I appreciate the many expressions of support we received. It is heartening and reassuring to know that the people we serve and all the political parties view the actions of these terrorists with abhorrence and disgust.

“These cowards are bereft of any trace of humanity. They think that by targeting our officers they are advancing their warped agenda when the reality is they are achieving nothing.

“Collectively, we have to do all we can to rid ourselves of these dangerous and delusional gangs of thugs.

“The public outpouring of support, such as what happened in Omagh at the weekend, is heartening and positive. No cause, ideology or campaign justifies any callous acts of brutality.

“What we have to do now is encourage as many people as possible to help and support the detectives to track down the attackers and bring them before the courts.

“That would be the best possible way of expressing thanks to John for his steadfastness and commitment to rid our civic society of the ‘cancer' of dissident terrorism and gangsterism.”

Northern Ireland news