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
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
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