Two men killed in separate Northern Ireland attacks
Dublin: Authorities blamed a resurgent Irish Republican Army faction on Thursday for killing two men in separate gun attacks in Northern Ireland, the first such slayings in the British territory in nearly a year.
So-called "New IRA" militants claimed responsibility for killing Kevin Kearney, a 46-year-old Irish Catholic man, on Tuesday in a Belfast park. Police found his body floating in a lake in the park yesterday and said he had been shot.
On Thursday morning, a gunman shot Barry McCrory, 35, fatally in the head inside his apartment in the centre of Londonderry, Northern Ireland`s second-largest city. IRA extremists again were suspected.
Police and politicians said both victims may have been targeted because of suspected involvement in drug dealing. Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway said Kearney had served prison time for drug-related offenses.
Peter Robinson, the Protestant leader of Northern Ireland`s unity government, said there was "no justification for anyone taking justice into their own hands."
IRA members in Londonderry, in particular, have been behind scores of shootings and death threats since 2009 against alleged drug dealers in the predominantly Catholic city.
Such violence and intimidation allows IRA members to control criminal rackets and discourage community cooperation with police.
Gerry Kelly of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party accused the militants of extorting money from many dealers in exchange for protection, while those who refuse to pay bribes are targeted.
In their admission of responsibility, IRA members said Kearney had been warned to stop trafficking drugs but "refused to heed this warning and carried on with his activities and as a consequence the IRA made the decision to execute him."
McCrory, meanwhile, was imprisoned last year for trying to rob a Belfast bank.
Also on Thursday, police and British Army bomb experts blocked roads and evacuated homes in three parts of Belfast while dealing with suspected bombs. All three alerts regularly staged by IRA splinter groups were declared hoaxes.
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