The New IRA has admitted responsibility for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry, offering “full and sincere apologies” to her family and friends in a statement to The Irish News.
In the statement given using a recognised code word, the New IRA said: “On Thursday night following an incursion on the Creggan [housing complex] by heavily armed British crown forces, which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage.
“We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy, and put in place measures to help ensure this.
“In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces.
“The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death.”
McKee, 29, a rising star of investigative journalism, was shot and killed, probably by a stray bullet aimed at police, during rioting on Thursday night.
On Saturday, police in Northern Ireland arrested two teenagers in connection with her death.
The men, aged 18 and 19, were detained under anti-terrorism legislation and taken to Belfast for questioning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said.
They have not been identified or charged. Police had said earlier that one gunman who pulled the trigger had been backed by an “organisation”, and they were searching for multiple suspects.
The use of a firearm 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.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said earlier that a gunman fired several shots at police during the unrest.
Police on Friday night released closed-circuit TV footage showing the man suspected of firing the shots that killed McKee.
Police appealed for help from the community, stating that people knew the shooter and should help police identify him. The rioting started after police moved into the Creggan housing complex to search for weapons.
The killing was condemned by all the major political parties as well as the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland.
The victim was mourned by friends, those who had read her work, and by the wider community. She 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 also had recently signed a contract to write two books.
Hours before her death, she tweeted a photo of the rioting with the words: “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.”
Her partner, Sara Canning, told a vigil on Friday that 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.
The shooting reveals how difficult it is to snuff out the last bit of violent resistance to the peace agreement.
The New IRA is a small group that rejects 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 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 other killings in the past decade.