Journalist shot dead in Derry during rioting in the city

Journalist shot dead in Derry during rioting in the city

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 rioting 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.

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

Prime Minister Theresa May said the murder was "shocking and senseless".

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

Ms McKee was a journalist who "died doing her job with great courage", added Mrs May.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said that a gunman fired shots towards police at about 23:00 BST on Thursday.

Mobile phone footage taken by a bystander during Thursday night's rioting appears to show a masked gunman crouching down on the street and opening fire with a handgun.

Ms McKee, who was standing near a police 4×4 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.

Skip Twitter post by @NaomiOhReally

A journalist has been killed covering riots in Derry. Her name was Lyra McKee. She was 29. She recently signed a two-book deal with Faber, who called her a "rising star of investigative journalism". This is her last tweet, sent from the scene of the unrest.

— Naomi O'Leary (@NaomiOhReally) April 19, 2019


End of Twitter post by @NaomiOhReally

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."

Skip Twitter post by @LeonaONeill1

I was standing beside this young woman when she fell beside a police Land Rover tonight in Creggan #Derry. I called an ambulance for her but police put her in the back of their vehicle and rushed her to hospital where she died. Just 29 years old. Sick to my stomach tonight

— Leona O'Neill (@LeonaONeill1) April 18, 2019


End of Twitter post by @LeonaONeill1

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.

Skip Twitter post by @ArchbishopEamon

On #GoodFriday morn, 21 yrs after our historic peace accord, we wake up to shocking news of pointless, violent death on the streets of #Derry. Please pray for her family, friends and colleagues today who must now carry such a heavy cross of grief and pain. Rest in peace.

— Eamon Martin (@ArchbishopEamon) April 19, 2019


End of Twitter post by @ArchbishopEamon

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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