Northern Irish police officer 'critical but stable' after shooting
By Amanda Ferguson
BELFAST (Reuters) -A Northern Irish police officer is in a "critical but stable" condition in hospital after being shot while coaching youth sports in the town of Omagh on Wednesday evening, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.
Two gunmen shot the off-duty officer a number of times at a youth sports complex on the outskirts of the town, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, the representative body for officers, said in a statement.
"This was a callous, cold-blooded and barbaric attempted murder on an off-duty officer. These criminals offer nothing but misery, suffering and heartache," Police Federation Chair Liam Kelly said.
Police in the Republic of Ireland said they were assisting the PSNI and had intensified patrolling in counties along the open border with Northern Ireland.
The PSNI did not comment on a motive for the attack.
While a 1998 peace deal largely ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, police officers are still sporadically targeted by small splinter groups of mostly nationalist militants opposed to Britain's rule over the region.
Some 3,600 people died during the fighting between Irish nationalist militants seeking union with the rest of Ireland, and the British army and pro-British unionist militants wanting to stay in the United Kingdom.
The county Tyrone town of Omagh was the scene of the worst attack of the period known as "The Troubles." Irish nationalist militants killed 29 people when they detonated a car bomb on a busy shopping street four months after the peace deal was signed.
The shooting on Wednesday was condemned by the governments in Dublin and London, which are currently locked in negotiations to try to end a post-Brexit EU/UK trade spat in Northern Ireland that has led to political stalemate in the region.
"I am appalled by the disgraceful shooting of an off-duty police officer. There is no place in our society for those who seek to harm public servants protecting communities," British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he condemned the "grotesque act of attempted murder."
The attack was also strongly criticised by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland.
"This is an outrageous and shameful attack. I unreservedly condemn this reprehensible attempt to murder a police officer," said Michelle O'Neill, the regional leader of Irish nationalists Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the militant Irish Republican Army.
(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson; Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Sandra Maler, Daniel Wallis, Lincoln Feast and Leslie Adler)