Northern Ireland police arrest two over fatal shooting of journalist Lyra McKee

McKee, 29, was a rising star of investigative journalism. She was shot and killed, probably by a stray bullet, during rioting Thursday night.

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By Associated Press

LONDON — Police in Northern Ireland on Saturday arrested two teenagers in connection with the fatal shooting of a journalist during rioting in the city of Londonderry.

The men, aged 18 and 19, were detained under anti-terrorism legislation and taken to Belfast for questioning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said.

The men have not been identified or charged. Police had said earlier there was one gunman who pulled the trigger who had been backed by an "organization," and said they were searching for multiple suspects.

Lyra McKee, 29, was a rising star of investigative journalism. She was shot and killed, probably by a stray bullet aimed at police, during rioting Thursday night.

Journalist and author Lyra McKee on May 19, 2017.Jess Lowe / via AFP - Getty Images

Police said the New IRA dissident group was most likely responsible and called it a "terrorist act."

The use of a firearm apparently aimed at police marks a dangerous escalation in sporadic violence that continues to plague Northern Ireland.

The rioting started after police moved into a housing complex to search for weapons.

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Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said earlier that a gunman fired a number of shots at police during the unrest. Police on Friday night released closed-circuit TV footage showing the man suspected of firing the shots that killed McKee.

The footage shows the police facing a barrage of gasoline bombs before the shots were fired by someone wearing a balaclava to obscure his face.

The killing was condemned by all the major political parties as well as the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland.

Leona O'Neill, a local journalist who was present, wrote on Twitter that she was with McKee when she was hit. She said McKee fell beside a police vehicle Land Rover and officers rushed her to hospital, where she died.

McKee had written for publications around the world including The Atlantic and she also edited for California-based news site Mediagazer. Her first book "The Lost Boys" was to be released next year, according to literary agency Janklow & Nesbit UK.

She rose to prominence in 2014 with a moving blog post — "Letter to my 14 year old self" — describing the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. She also had recently signed a contract to write two books.

Her partner, Sara Canning, told a vigil Friday that McKee's amazing potential had been snuffed out.

Canning said the senseless murder "has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with."

"It has left so many friends without their confidante," she added.

The New IRA is a small group of republicans who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army's embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as "The Troubles" that claimed more than 3,700 lives.

The riot was the latest violent incident this year in Londonderry, also known as Derry.

The detonation of a large car bomb outside a courthouse in January highlighted the threat still posed by militant groups opposed to the 1998 peace deal that largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland. No one was injured in the blast.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., led a congressional delegation to the city earlier Thursday, as part of a trip to show support for the peace agreement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called McKee's killing "shocking and truly senseless."

Speaking in Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland had chosen peace and cooperation on Good Friday 21 years ago and will not be "dragged into the past" by political violence.