Tommy Crossan murder: 26-year-old man held in connection with fatal shooting of ex-Continuity IRA figure

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the man is being questioned following the killing in west Belfast on Good Friday

A 26-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the murder of former dissident republican leader Tommy Crossan, who was shot dead in west Belfast on Friday.

The 43-year-old ex-Continuity IRA (CIRA) figure was gunned down at a fuel depot in the grounds of an industrial complex in full view of surrounding houses.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said the man was arrested in Belfast by officers from its Serious Crime Branch and is being questioned at a police station in Antrim.

It is believed up to three gunmen may have carried out the killing. A red BMW was found set alight nearby - the area has long been known as a republican heartland but has been relatively peaceful in recent years following the end of the IRA campaign in 1998.

Distressed relatives gathered at the scene and a priest attended to pray over the victim

Belfast City Council Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir, of Sinn Fein, spoke out to condemn the killing.

He said whoever was behind the killing had no support in their attempts to backtrack on the progress made in the city: “They are dinosaurs trapped in the past and I urge everyone to work with the police to remove them from our streets.”

Crossnan was once the CIRA's Belfast leader but was believed to be the subject of a death threat and had been expelled from the group some years ago after a fall out.

He spent time in jail for conspiracy to murder Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers following a gun attack on a police station in west Belfast in 1998.

The CIRA has opposed the peace process which largely ended three decades of violence and transformed Northern Ireland. Crossan was killed on the 16th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which mandated political power-sharing at Stormont.

CIRA gunmen murdered Police Constable Stephen Carroll in Lurgan in Co Armagh in March 2009 but the organisation has since been riven with splits, security sources have suggested.

Friday afternoon's attack happened at the Peter Pan Centre in Springfield Road, the (PSNI) said. Detectives have launched a murder investigation and are combing the scene for forensics clues.

Mr O'Muilleoir told BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight: “There are some micro groups of criminals masquerading under an assortment of republican labels. They have no support within the community.”

The area of Belfast where the shooting happened is mainly comprised of tightly-packed terraced housing estates and businesses.

Nationalist SDLP councillor Colin Keenan said it was a horrific scene.

“We have long hoped that the shadow of death had been lifted from west Belfast.

"Today's event is a terrible, tragic reminder of the violent conflict of the past."

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford also condemned the shooting.

Members of the security forces have been on high alert for attacks by various extremist factions who have also killed two soldiers and a prison officer.

In recent weeks they have stepped up efforts to kill police officers, with several attacks on the force in west Belfast.

After the murder of prison officer David Black on the M1 motorway in November 2012, police mounted an unprecedented surveillance operation against various factions as well making significant arrests.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference