An unverified claim of responsibility by the New IRA for the shooting of an off-duty detective is being investigated by police in Northern Ireland.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell has been in hospital since he was shot in front of his young son in Co Tyrone on 22 February.

He was targeted at a sports centre in Omagh, where he coaches a youth football team.

On Sunday night, a typed message on a sheet of paper appeared on a wall in Londonderry/Derry, purportedly from the New IRA and claiming responsibility for Mr Caldwell’s attempted murder.

It was signed by “T O’Neill” – a name previously used by the dissident terrorist group.

It said: “The Irish Republican Army claim responsibility for the military operation targeting senior Crown Force member John Caldwell.

“An active service unit of the IRA were in position to target the enemy within our chosen kill zone with other armed volunteers giving cover.

“All volunteers returned safely to base.

“Irish Republican Army intelligence are now in possession of security information regarding the out of bounds movement of Crown Force personnel.

“We would say this, you still have to try and live a normal life day-to-day, one of these days the IRA will be waiting. T O’Neill.”

Who are the New IRA?

The New IRA – also known as the New Irish Republican Army – are a small militant nationalist group.

Founded in 2012, the group are opposed to Britain’s rule over the region, including the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace deal, which largely ended three decades of sectarian violence in the country.

Police officers are still sporadically targeted by splinter groups of mainly Irish nationalist militants, with the last shooting taking place in Northern Ireland in 2017.

The New IRA has carried out attacks before, including car bombings.

The New IRA claimed responsibility for a potentially lethal bomb discovered under the car of a police officer at a golf club in east Belfast in June 2019.

The group were also responsible for the killing of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019.

Last week, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they believe the attack was terror-related, describing the New IRA as their primary line of inquiry.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said today: “Police are aware of the claim of responsibility.

“We are currently reviewing its contents as part of the overall investigation.

“On Friday, we confirmed that we were treating the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell as terrorist-related and our primary line of enquiry was the New IRA.”

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Omagh ‘pupils were directly threatened’

Police believe two gunmen fired multiple shots in the attack.

Six men, aged 22, 38, 43, 45, 47 and 71, are being questioned in police custody.

On Saturday, people gathered in the village of Beragh and in nearby Omagh to show their solidarity with Mr Caldwell.

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