Police officer shot outside school

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A police officer was blasted with a shotgun outside a school in Northern Ireland today.

He was ambushed at Bishop St, near the centre of Londonderry when he pulled up in his car as hundreds of pupils arrived for classes.

The officer, a Catholic aged 43, managed to drive off however and was later treated for injuries to his face and arm. Police said they were not life threatening, but described his condition as "serious"

Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process were immediately blamed for the shooting, which shocked politicians on all sides, including Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, deputy First Minister at the Northern Ireland Assembly and a former IRA leader in Derry.

He said: "The war is over and it's time these people woke up to that reality. They are attempting to plunge our society back into conflict."

Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the shooting was a wake-up call for their personal security, especially recent recruits.

He added: "But it is also a wake-up call to the community to recognise that a more peaceful Northern Ireland has yet to benefit everyone. Times may have moved on but clearly some people remain trapped in the past.

"I am confident that officers will not allow themselves to be intimidated out of the service by such personal and cowardly targeting."

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern condemned the shooting as cowardly and called for full public co-operation in the police investigation.

He said: "This attack, outside a school on a busy morning, shows a particularly vicious disregard for the lives of children and their parents.

"The perpetrators represent no-one. They have no agenda except destruction and a return to conflict."