Ulster prison officer shot dead in motorway ambush
Rush-hour assassination bears hallmarks of attack by dissident republicans
DISSIDENT republicans in Northern Ireland are being blamed for the 'assassination' of a prison guard who was shot dead in a rush-hour motorway ambush this morning.
The attack took place as 52-year-old David Black, a married father of two, headed to work at the Maghaberry high-security prison in County Antrim. Several shots were fired at the car, which careered off the road as it drove along the M1 between Lurgan and Portadown at around 7.30am.
"The attack bears all the hallmarks of a dissident republican assassination," reported the Belfast Telegraph.
A car suspected of being linked to the attack was later found burnt-out at Lurgan, where dissident republicans have considerable support, said the Irish Examiner.
The Irish Times suggested that the murder could be linked to events at the prison. "Senior security sources have warned recently of imminent attacks from dissident republicans [and] prisoners have been staging a so-called 'dirty protest' at Maghaberry Prison because of their opposition to body searches by prison staff," it says.
There are now fears of more sectarian violence, although other republicans have condemned the killing. Dolores Kelly, deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP, said the attack was "reminiscent of the worst moments of the last 40 years" and had been masterminded by "dark forces".
John O'Dowd, a Sinn Fein member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, described the shooting as "totally wrong" and said there was "no justification for continued conflict in this society".
The murder comes a week after the threat of a republican terror attack in Great Britain was downgraded to moderate. However, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has warned that the threat remains severe in Northern Ireland. ·