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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
11 Mar 2023

NextImg:Londonderry Man Arrested Over New IRA Claim in John Caldwell Shooting Investigation

A 25-year-old man was arrested in relation to the claim of responsibility made after the attempted murder of off-duty detective John Caldwell, as well as a security hoax last month, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said on Saturday.

Caldwell, detective chief inspector (DCI) at the PSNI, was gunned down in front of his teenage son at a sports complex in Omagh, County Tyrone, on Feb. 22.

His condition remains critical but stable, a PSNI spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Saturday.

Detectives have previously said their main line of enquiry was that the attack was carried out by “violent dissident republicans,” with a “primary focus … on the New IRA.”

A few days after the shooting, a typed message appeared on a wall in Londonderry, purportedly from the New IRA, claiming responsibility for the attempted murder.

It was signed by “T O’Neill”—a name previously used by the dissident terrorist group.

PSNI said on Saturday that detectives arrested a 25-year-old man in connection with the claim.

The man was arrested for questioning following a search of a property in the Londonderry area under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows an officer to make an arrest without a warrant if an individual can be reasonably suspected to be a terrorist.

He was also arrested in relation to a hoax security alert last month in which a suspicious object caused significant disruption, police said.

Caldwell had just finished coaching a youth football team when he was targeted in the car park of the Omagh sports complex.

He was loading footballs into the boot of his car alongside his young son when two masked men approached and opened fire in the car park.

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan previously said that it was believed at least 10 shots were fired “from close range in the busy sports training area, which could have quite easily seriously injured or killed anyone close by.”

The purported IRA message, which appeared on Feb. 26, said, “The Irish Republican Army claim responsibility for the military operation targeting senior Crown Force member John Caldwell.”

“An active service unit of the IRA were in position to target the enemy within our chosen kill zone with other armed volunteers giving cover. All volunteers returned safely to base,” it added.

The message went on to threaten police officers by saying the IRA has “security information regarding the out of bounds movement of Crown Force personnel.”

“We would say this, you still have to try and live a normal life day-to-day, one of these days the IRA will be waiting. T O’Neill,” it reads.

Police have made a number of arrests and appealed for information about two Ford Fiesta vehicles that they believe were used during the attack.

On Feb. 10, a suspicious object was found in the middle of Lone Moor Road in Londonderry, also called Derry, at around 8:30 p.m.

Nearly six hours later, police established that the object was a hoax device, but the incident had caused ” significant disruption” for local residents and football fans attending the Derry City V Shamrock Rovers game, police said.

There have been other security alerts near the area.

In a separate incident, a viable explosive device was found in nearby Corrody Road area on Feb. 18, a day after a report of an attempted hijacking in the Hollymount Park area. Police arrested four people over the incident.

In November last year, in what the police called an “elaborate hoax,”  it was reported to the police that a delivery driver was hijacked by three masked men at gunpoint who placed a suspicious object in his vehicle and forced him to travel to the Waterside and abandon the car outside the Police Station.

Chris Heaton-Harris, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said on Wednesday that officials are “constantly” reviewing Northern Ireland’s security threat level.

In March last year, the Northern Ireland-related terrorism threat level in the region was downgraded from “severe” to “substantial.”

Answering concerns that there may have been an increase in paramilitary activity, Heaton-Harris told MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, that the threat assessment “is being constantly looked at to see if it is the right level, by those who know what they are doing.”

He also revealed that Irish police had reacted immediately to offer support to the PSNI in the aftermath of Caldwell’s shooting.

Patricia Devlin contributed to this report.

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