Police in Northern Ireland have launched a murder investigation after a Belfast journalist was shot and killed in gunfire.
In a statement on the Police Service of Northern Ireland website, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said journalist Lyra McKee “was murdered during orchestrated violence in Creggan” in which police were attacked with petrol bombs and other missiles.
Only hours before her death, McKee, 29, had posted a photograph at the scene with the caption: “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.”
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. pic.twitter.com/0gk1Fa7Du0
— Naomi O'Leary (@NaomiOhReally) April 19, 2019
Police said the dissident republican group, the New IRA, was probably responsible for the fatal shooting, in which a gunman fired a number of shots at police during the unrest.
“We believe this to be a terrorist act. We believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans,” he said.
“Our assessment at this time is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry.”
Mr Hamilton said police searches had been carried out in Creggan before the violence erupted on Thursday night because police believed dissidents “were storing firearms and explosives for a number of planned attacks and these may have been used over the Easter weekend in the city”.
He said the searches began just after 9pm, when a crowd gathered and “before long upwards of 50 petrol bombs were thrown at officers”.
A murder investigation been launched but there have been no arrests. Chief Constable Hamilton appealed for calm to prevail on Easter weekend.
An eyewitness told the BBC that a gunman fired indiscriminately into a crowd during riots on the crowded Creggan housing complex.
The New IRA is a small group of republicans 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 3700 lives.
The riots broke out before the Easter weekend, a time when republicans mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
There has been an increase in tensions in Northern Ireland in recent months with sporadic violence, much of it focused in Londonderry, also known as Derry.
The detonation of a large car bomb outside a courthouse in Londonderry in January highlighted the threat still posed by militant groups opposed to the 1998 peace deal that largely ended three decades of violence in the British-run province.