Omagh shooting – latest updates: three men arrested over attempted murder as police focus on New IRA

The dissident republican group the New IRA are the “primary focus” of the attempted murder probe

Gunmen shot a senior police officer several times in front of his young son in a “callous attack” at a sports complex in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell ran a short distance and fell to the ground where the attackers continued to fire at him as children ran in terror to get to safety, police have said.

Mr Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after the attack at the Youth Sports Centre in Omagh on Wednesday evening. The dissident republican group the New IRA are the “primary focus” of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s attempted murder probe.

Mr Caldwell had been coaching a youth sports team at the facility on Wednesday evening. Around 8pm, the policeman had been putting footballs into the boot of his car, accompanied by his young son, when two gunmen approached and both fired multiple shots.

“John has run a short distance and he’s fallen to the ground, and as he’s on the ground the gunmen have continued to fire at him,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

Police said information, including photos, CCTV and dash-cam footage, can also be provided to police through the Major Incident Public Portal.

Three men have been arrested in Omagh and Coalisland, County Tyrone, in connection with the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has confirmed.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “This morning we have arrested three men aged 38, 45, and 47, in Omagh and Coalisland in connection with John’s attempted murder.

“They’re currently being questioned by detectives at Musgrave serious crime suite.”

John Caldwell ‘fighting for his life’

Chief Constable Simon Byrne said Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell remains in a critical condition.

The PSNI head told reporters: “Clearly as an organisation, we are utterly shocked and angered by last night’s brazen and calculated attack.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) speaks to the media outside PSNI headquarters in Belfast

“John is a father, husband and colleague, and a valued and active member of his local community.”

He said Mr Caldwell has been a valued police officer for 26 years “committed to public service as a senior investigating officer supporting victims and their families in bringing offenders to justice”.

He added: “John is held in the highest esteem within our organisation. He is a credit to his family and to the police service.

“And of course our thoughts are with John and his family as he fights for his life in hospital today.”

New IRA the focus of investigation

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said the dissident republican group the New IRA was the primary focus of the police investigation.

He said: “The two gunmen, who were dressed in dark clothing, carried out this cowardly attack and left the scene on foot. At least two other vehicles were struck by their volley of shots.

“We believe the gunmen fled the scene in a small, dark-coloured vehicle shortly after 8pm. We believe this vehicle was abandoned and set on fire in Racolpa Road, Omagh.

“We want to hear from anyone who was in the area or who witnessed what happened to get in touch with any information that could help with our investigation.”

Children ran from shooting in ‘sheer terror’

He added that there were “many other young people, children” waiting to be picked up by their parents when the attack on John Caldwell took place.

“And those children ran for cover in sheer terror towards the centre,” he told reporters.

Top picture: Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was targeted in the shooting.

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