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Another Northern Ireland shooting: A return to the 'Troubles?'

Irish politicians from all sides reject any backsliding toward violence.

By Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / March 11, 2009

ON ALERT: Northern Ireland police stand guard near the scene of Monday's murder of a policeman in Craigavon, Northern Ireland. Two British soldiers were killed over the weekend.

Peter Morrison/AP


DUBLIN, Ireland

A third shooting death in three days in Northern Ireland is raising concern that a decade-old peace accord could come unglued, returning the country to the "Troubles."

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The latest killing was of an on-duty police officer. Constable Stephen Paul Carroll was fatally shot Monday evening. Dissident republicans, the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA), have claimed responsibility.

The incident in the County Armagh town of Craigavon, 28 miles from Belfast, follows the killing of two British Army soldiers over the weekend by another shadowy dissident group, the Real IRA (RIRA), at an Army base also in County Antrim.

Police carried out a series of raids Tuesday in the area where the police officer was shot. A young man has been arrested in connection with the latest incident, but law officers have revealed few additional details.

Cengiz Azimkar and Mark Quinsey, the two soldiers killed in the attack at Massereene barracks, were due to be deployed to Afghanistan. The killings marked the first attack on British forces since 1997.

Irish officials are calling for help – and for peace.

"This has got to stop and I have a direct appeal to the community to help us to do so," according to a statement issued by Hugh Orde, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Orde's calls mirror those from politicians across Northern Ireland's political divide. Peter Robinson, leader of the hard-line pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, was adamant that the killings would not derail a process that has brought relative calm and prosperity after 30 years of conflict between pro-British Protestants and Irish Republican Roman Catholics. "Those responsible for this murderous act will not be allowed to drag our province back to the past," he said.