Journalist shot dead in Northern Ireland rioting

LONDON (AP) — Police in Northern Ireland said Friday they are searching for multiple suspects in the fatal shooting of a journalist during overnight rioting in the city of Londonderry.

The dissident republican group, the New IRA, was most likely responsible for killing Lyra McKee, police said after a clear escalation in recent violence.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the 29-year-old journalist and author was shot and killed, probably by a stray bullet, during rioting in the Creggan area.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said a gunman fired a number of shots at police during the unrest Thursday evening.

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RETRANSMITTED WITH POLICE OFFICERS FACES PIXELATED AS REQUESTED BY PSNIA police officer is dragged away after being struck by an object thrown by Loyalist protesters at the Ardoyne Roundabout, Belfast during the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Loyalist supporters confront police at Woodvale Road, after their parade was banned from marching past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 13, 2015. The annual orangemen march is the most contentious loyalist parade of Ulster's marching season, which the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over the deposed Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police by a car that was overturned on the Crumlin Road, Belfast during the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: Loyalists break through a police barrier as they are prevented from progressing on the return journey towards the controversial Ardoyne flashpoint the Twelfth of July parade on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Water cannon is used on Loyalist protesters on the Crumlin Road, Belfast during the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: Loyalists break through a police barrier as they are prevented from progressing on the return journey towards the controversial Ardoyne flashpoint during the Twelfth of July parade on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Protestors gather ahead of a parade on Woodvale Road, north Belfast as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Police clash with bystanders after a car is driven into a crowd outside Ardoyne shops, trapping a girl underneath the car in north Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 13, 2015. The driver of the car was arrested as tensions run high in the area with Orangemen banned from marching past the Ardoyne shops. The annual orangemen march is the most contentious loyalist parade of Ulster's marching season, which the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over the deposed Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman waits with a baton gun, in riot gear at Woodvale Road, after a loyalist parade was banned from marching past the Nationalist Ardoyne shops in north Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 13, 2015. The annual orangemen march is the most contentious loyalist parade of Ulster's marching season, which the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over the deposed Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: Police officers dressed in riot gear attempt to contain disturbances along the controversial Ardoyne flashpoint area on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Parades Commissions ruling that no Orange bands would be permitted to walk the 12th of July parades return route past the contentious Ardoyne route sparked trouble in the area this evening. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: A protester stands near a fire as police officers dressed in riot gear attempt to contain Loyalist rioting along the controversial Ardoyne flashpoint area on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Parades Commissions ruling that no Orange bands would be permitted to walk the 12th of July parades return route past the contentious Ardoyne route sparked trouble in the area this evening. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Protestors gather ahead of a parade on Woodvale Road, north Belfast as part of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: Police officers and local nationalist residents attend to an unidentified girl trapped underneath a car allegedly driven by a loyalist as it reversed at high speed along the controversial nationalist Ardoyne flashpoint area on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Parades Commissions ruling that no Orange bands would be permitted to walk the 12th of July parades return route past the contentious Ardoyne route sparked trouble in the area this evening. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Police in Ardoyne attend to an injured girl, after rolling the car off her, which had driven into a crowd of people outside Ardoyne shops in north Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 13, 2015. Police arrested the driver as tensions run high in the area with Orangemen banned from marching past the Ardoyne shops. The annual orangemen march is the most contentious loyalist parade of Ulster's marching season, which the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over the deposed Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
RETRANSMITTED WITH POLICE OFFICERS FACES PIXELATED AS REQUESTED BY PSNIPolice attend to a member of public after a car was overturned on the Crumlin Road, Belfast during the annual Twelfth of July celebrations, marking the victory of King William III's victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: Police officers and local priest Fr Gary Donegan attend to an unidentified girl who was trapped underneath a moving car after an alleged loyalist drove over her along the controversial nationalist Ardoyne flashpoint on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Trouble began in the area after an Orange parade was denied to return along their Twelfth of July route past the Ardoyne area by the Parades Commission. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: Local priest Fr Gary Donegan comforts a teenage girls family member as police and paramedics attend to the unidentified girl who was trapped underneath a moving car after an alleged loyalist drove over her along the controversial nationalist Ardoyne flashpoint on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Trouble began in the area after an Orange parade was denied to return along their Twelfth of July route past the Ardoyne area by the Parades Commission. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 13: Police officers dressed in riot gear attempt to contain disturbances along the controversial Ardoyne flashpoint area on July 13, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Parades Commissions ruling that no Orange bands would be permitted to walk the 12th of July parades return route past the contentious Ardoyne route sparked trouble in the area this evening. The Twelfth is an Ulster Protestant celebration held annually. It celebrates the victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland at that time. This year the Twelfth takes place on the thirteenth of July due to the original date falling on a Sunday. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
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"We believe this to be a terrorist act," he said. "We believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans."

Hamilton said the force's assessment "is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry."

A murder investigation has been launched but there have been no arrests. Police appealed for calm to prevail on Easter weekend.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said police believe more than one person was involved in the shooting.

"We certainly believe there was more than one person who was involved in this last night. Obviously only one person pulled the trigger but there was more than one person," he said.

He said the violence started after police entered the area to search for weapons and that the gunman was aiming at policemen when the rioting intensified.

Mayor John Boyle said the city was united in mourning her death.

"I have known her since she was 16 years old," he said.

"She was bright, she was warm, she was witty, but most of all she was an outstanding individual, a great friend to so, so many people in this city in the short time that she was with us."

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 3,700 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 several other killings in the past decade.

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.

McKee, the victim of the shooting, 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.

In the post, she described the shame she felt at 14 as she kept the "secret" of being gay from her family and friends and the love she received when she was finally able to reveal it.

McKee had recently signed a contract to write two books.

Hours before her death she tweeted a photo of the riot with the words: "Derry tonight. Absolute madness."

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