Masked gunmen shot and killed a former policeman outside a supermarket late Friday, the latest violence to strike Northern Ireland as negotiators seek a solution to the province’s political divisions.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting in Armagh, 40 miles southwest of Belfast.
However, the Irish Republican Army and other anti-British paramilitary groups in the past have frequently targeted members and former members of Northern Ireland’s police and army.
While the IRA is supposed to be observing an 8-month-old truce as the price for its allied Sinn Fein party to participate in peace talks, police say IRA members disillusioned with the negotiations have broken away to continue attacks.
The ex-policeman was leaving the market with his wife when he was shot at least three times by two men, police said. He died at the scene.
The victim had retired from the force several months ago on medical grounds.
Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam identified the victim as Cyril Stewart, a member of the full-time police reserve for 18 years until he retired.
She appealed to anyone with information about the killing, “however small” to pass it to the police.
The killers “must be caught,” she said.
A leading moderate Catholic politician denounced the killing, saying it was the work of people determined to prevent a peace settlement.
“They are imposing their will on an entire community but they cannot be allowed to succeed,” said Seamus Mallon of the Social Democratic and Labor Party.
Two weeks ago, a salvo of mortar shells was fired at Armagh’s main police station, wounding no one but forcing more than 100 nearby residents to flee.
Northern Ireland’s police chief, Ronnie Flanagan, blamed that and other recent attacks on former IRA members who left the organization last year.
Armagh is religiously polarized between predominantly Catholic and Protestant areas, but the city center where the shooting took place usually is be considered neutral turf.