By Faruk Zorlu
ANKARA (AA) – Dissident republican group the New IRA has claimed responsibility for the killing last week of journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland.
In a statement issued early Tuesday to The Irish News, the group admitted that its activists killed the 29-year-old reporter, according to local media reports.
“In the course of attacking the enemy, Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces," the group said in the statement.
“The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death,” it added.
McKee, who had been observing a police operation in the Creggan area of the city of Londonderry, was shot dead Thursday night.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the shooting happened when police were searching for munitions and firearms after tips that terror attacks were planned for the Easter weekend.
He called McKee’s death "horrendous and unjustified".
“A single gunman fired shots in a residential area of the city and as a result wounded Ms. McKee,” Hamilton said in a statement Friday.
“Officers quickly administered first aid before transporting her in the back of a Land Rover to hospital. Tragically, she died from her injuries.”
Prime Minister Theresa May called the incident “shocking and truly senseless”.
“My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues. She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage," she wrote on Twitter.
The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic has been one of the thorniest issues in Brexit negotiations between the U.K. and European Union.
A deal reached by May and EU officials has been thrice rejected by the House of Commons mainly due to the backstop clause – a measure to avoid a hard Irish border.
Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in a 2016 referendum, and it is feared that the Brexit process could trigger enmity in the region.
A car bomb targeting a courthouse in Londonderry (Derry) in January was blamed by local police on the New IRA.
The Troubles – an era of conflict between the British government and pro-British paramilitaries on one side and Irish republicans and nationalists on the other – ended in 1998 after the Belfast Agreement put an end to decades of armed struggle in the divided U.K. region of Northern Ireland.
The U.K. and the Republic of Ireland signed the deal, brokered by the U.S. and eight political parties in Northern Ireland, on April 10, 1998.
The deal – dubbed the Good Friday Agreement – largely saw the end of the Troubles-era violence, in which some 3,500 people lost their lives.
Since the U.K. voted to leave the EU in 2016, tensions within Northern Ireland have steadily begun to rise as the prospects of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland threaten to unravel the fragile agreement.