Three arrested in Northern Ireland for the attempted murder of a police officer | International

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The Police of Northern Ireland (PSNI, in its official acronym in English) has accused republican dissident groups, and specifically the so-called New IRA, of the assassination attempt perpetrated against agent John Caldwell on Wednesday night in the town of Omagh, when he was off duty. "They are the main focus," said the assistant chief officer, Mark McEwan, "although the investigation is still in an early phase, and we keep all possibilities open," he has qualified. During the morning of this Thursday, the Northern Irish police have arrested three men of 38, 45 and 47 years in relation to the crime. Their identities have not been released at this time.

Caldwell, a great soccer fan, had been training kids all afternoon in a sports center that usually registers a lot of activity every day and to which a large number of people go. At the time of the shooting, shortly before eight in the evening (9, in Spanish peninsular time), there were still quite a few parents and children in the facilities. The agent was keeping several balls in the trunk of the car, accompanied by his son, when two masked men began to shoot at him. “Two gunmen approached, and fired multiple shots. John ran a short distance and fell to the ground, where the gunmen continued to fire at him," McEwan said.

The gunmen then fled in a small black vehicle which they later set on fire near Omagh. The victim maintained a certain public relevance in his work, having been in charge of some high-profile public police investigations, such as the murders of Natalie McNally, the pregnant woman who was stabbed to death in her own home in Lurgan (Northern Ireland) at the end of of 2022, or Shane Whitla, shot dead by a criminal gang also in Lurgan, for an alleged drug debt.

Condemnation of the Caldwell shooting has been unanimous from all political forces in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and it comes with less than two months to go before the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (April 10, 1998), ending decades of sectarian violence in one of Europe's most troubled regions.

“I am shocked at the shameful shooting of an off-duty officer tonight. [por el miércoles] in Omagh," UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote on Twitter. “There is no place in our society for those who seek to harm the public servants who protect our communities,” Sunak warned. "I absolutely condemn this grotesque assassination attempt," wrote the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, "and call on all those with information to help the PSNI."

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a delicate situation

Both the republican parties (supporters of the reunification of Ireland) and the unionists have been quick to condemn without fissures a criminal act that adds more tension to an already very complicated political situation for months. The Northern Ireland Protocol, the region's attempt to fit in in the post-Brexit era, has irritated part of the Northern Irish population loyal to the United Kingdom, which has seen the pact with Brussels as a new betrayal by London. In fact, the Sunak government has tried in recent days to close an agreement with the EU to put an end to the most vitriolic confrontation between the two blocs since the divorce took place. The autonomous institutions (Parliament and Government) have been blocked for months due to the refusal of the main unionist party, the DUP, to participate in them.

Sinn Féin, for years considered the political arm of the IRA, won a historic victory in the regional elections in May last year. As the most voted party, as stipulated in the Good Friday Agreement, its candidate - and party vice-president - Michelle O'Neill, should occupy the post of chief minister of Northern Ireland. The DUP, however, keeps the formation of the Government paralyzed until the protocol signed with Brussels is replaced by another that satisfies its aspirations.

“We fully condemn the cowards responsible for this. [el intento de asesinato del agente Caldwell]”, said Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP. "Our hearts go out to the family of this brave police officer and his colleagues."

"There are no excuses or any kind of political reason for what happened," Sinn Féin's leader for the entire island of Ireland, Mary Lou McDonald, told RTÉ public television. “It is unacceptable, and whatever the reason, I want to see the police authorities working together and intensely. This attack is absolutely diabolical and produces shock, anger and a will for greater determination”, McDonald said. "We are not going back to those bad old days," she assured, referring to the Troublesthe decades of bloody conflict that ravaged the region.

In recent months, the Republican formation had maintained a comfortable position in the face of the intransigence shown by the unionists regarding Brussels and the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the sporadic episodes of street violence in Protestant neighborhoods. The Omagh attack reminds the public that both sides still have a long way to go to end the sectarianism that still exists in Northern Irish society. Last November, the New Ira tried to assassinate with a bomb attack two officers who were patrolling in the town of Strabane, just over thirty kilometers from Omagh.

Since the period between 2009 and 2011, when two police officers were killed and another seriously injured, there has not been a situation as tense as the current one in Northern Ireland.

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