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Crime

Police arrest suspect in shooting death of former Continuity IRA leader

Police in Belfast have arrested one man in connection with the shooting death of a former leader of Continuity IRA, a splinter group of the Irish Republican Army. The shooting was carried out in broad daylight.

Police in Northern Ireland's capital city announced on Saturday that a 26-year-old suspect was being held in connection with the killing of Tommy Crossan, 43. Crossan was the former leader of the Continuity IRA (CIRA) paramilitary group in Belfast.

"Mr. Crossan was shot a number of times at close range in his upper body area as he sat in the office of the business of a family friend," detective superintendent Jonathan Roberts told reporters.

Roberts added that while Crossan was "known to police ... absolutely nothing justifies this barbaric action." He had served prison time relating to charges of conspiracy to murder police officers after a gun attack on a police station in 1998.

Bad blood with former group

Crossan had been expelled from CIRA some years ago after a falling out. The group opposes the peace process between two rival communities in Northern Ireland, consisting broadly of Protestant British and Catholic Irish citizens. Since being expelled from the group, Crossan had been the target of death threats.

In 1998, the Good Friday accords mostly stopped sectarian violence between the two communities in a power-sharing deal. Politicians from both groups condemned Crossan's shooting - which also came on Good Friday.

"The small minority of people who want to continue terrorizing the community need to understand that they will not be allowed to drag Northern Ireland back to the dark days of the past," said First Minister Peter Robinson, a Protestant unionist.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness - a Catholic republican and former IRA commander from the Sinn Fein party - added that "dialogue, not destruction, is the way forward, and while there may be a small minority of people who are trying to promote division and heighten tensions, let's be very clear, they will fail."

"The peace process is rock solid."

mz/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)