The dissident republican group the New IRA is suspected by police of being responsible for the fatal shooting of journalist Lyra McKee during rioting in Derry on Thursday night.
At a press conference on Friday morning assistant chief Constable for District Policing Mark Hamilton said the writer was murdered by dissident republicans.
He said police had been carrying out a search operation in the Creggan area of Derry when a public order situation developed during which more than 50 petrol bombs were thrown at police and two cars hijacked and set on fire.
“Unfortunately, at 11pm last night, a gunman appeared and fired a number of shots towards police and a young woman, Lyra McKee (29) was wounded,” he said.
“She was taken away in a police landrover to Altnagelvin Hospital but unfortunately she has died there. We have now launched a murder inquiry here in the city.
“We believe this to be a terrorist act, we believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans, our assessment at this time is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry.”
He added: “The bringing of a firearm out and firing it down a street in a residential area where they knew lots of people were standing about is a calculated and callous act and can only be designed to hurt and kill people. “Bullets stop somewhere, and on this occasion they stopped fatally.”
Mr Hamilton said she was a “perfectly innocent” bystander with legitimate reason for being there but had not been “actively working” as a journalist on Thursday evening.
“We have now launched a murder inquiry here in the city. “We believe this to be a terrorist act, we believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans, our assessment at this time is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry.
British prime minister Theresa May said the death of McKee was shocking and senseless. "My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues.
“She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage.”
The New IRA is an amalgam of a series of armed groups opposed to the peace process. It claimed responsibility for a number of parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow recently. The threat posed to police in Northern Ireland is considered high.
It has been linked with four murders including the shooting of Ms McKee.
The other murders include police constable Ronan Kerr, who was killed by an under-car bomb in Omagh in 2011.
The group is also linked to the deaths of prison officers David Black, who was shot as he drove to work at Maghaberry Prison in 2012, and Adrian Ismay, who died in 2016 after a bomb exploded under his van outside his home in east Belfast.
The New IRA is believed to have been formed between 2011 and 2012 following the merger of a number of smaller groups, including the Real IRA - the group behind the 1998 Omagh bomb.
It is strongest in Derry, north and west Belfast, Strabane in Co Tyrone and Lurgan in Co Armagh.
This year the group was responsible for a car bomb outside the courthouse in Bishop Street, Derry.
Mr Hamilton said: “I stood here in January and we talked about the bomb and the act of violence against this city, and yet again we see another act of violence in this city which has had horrendous consequences and which will affect people for many, many years.”
He appealed to people with influence to use it to ensure a quiet weekend and future in the city. “These acts of violence are bringing nothing to this city, all they are doing is bringing misery to one family, but also particularly to this city.” - PA