Police have said that the New IRA was most likely to have been responsible for shooting and killing journalist Lyra McKee in Derry on Thursday night.
The young woman was among a group of bystanders, including other journalists, standing by a police Land Rover when she was fatally wounded by a gun firing what is believed to have been a handgun during a night of disturbances in the Creggan area of the city.
At a press conference on Friday morning, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton gave details of the events that unfolded in the area late on Thursday night and confirmed police did not return fire during the incident.
He said: “Last night the PSNI mounted a search operation here in the city because we believe that violent dissident Republicans are planning attacks in this city.
“As such we were in Creggan carrying out a search operation and public order situation developed at Fanad Drive.
“This saw over 50 petrol bombs thrown at police, two cars hijacked and set on fire and then unfortunately at 11pm a gunman appeared and fired a number of shots at police. A young woman, Lyra McKee, 29 years old, was wounded. She was taken away from the scene in a police Land Rover to Altnagelvin Hospital but unfortunately she has died. Therefore we have now launched a murder inquiry.
“We believe this to be a terrorist act, we believe it was carried out by violent dissident Republicans. Our assessment at this time is that the New IRA are the most likely to be the ones behind this and that will form our primary line of inquiry.”
Assis. Chf. Const. Hamilton said he wanted to erxpress his deepest sympathies to the family of the young journalist.
“The bringing of a firearm out and firing it down a street in a residential area where they knew a lot of people were standing about was a calculated and callous act and can only be designed to kill people.
“Bullets stop somewhere and on this occasion stopped fatally.
“This is a horrendous act, it is unnecessary, it is uncalled for, it is totally unjustified,” he said.
“Not only is it the murder of a young woman, it is an attack again upon the people of this city.
“I stood here in January and we talked about the bomb and the acts of violence against the city and yet again we see another act of violence that has horrendous consequences and which will affect people for many, many years.”
Appealing for people to bring forward information to police or Crimestoppers, he said: “We need people who saw this happen to come forward. We are also creating a portal for people to upload videos they may have taken. I know a lot of this is circulating on social media but I would ask people to be sensitive to the family. Someone has lost their life and the last thing the family needs is to be see that played over and over again.”