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Two men charged with murder of Belfast journalist Lyra McKee

Lyra McKee updates

Two men have been charged with the murder of Lyra McKee, a Belfast journalist shot dead in Northern Ireland in 2019 while observing a riot.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the men, aged 21 and 33, were also charged with possessing a firearm and throwing petrol bombs during the violence in Londonderry, also known as Derry.

They are due to appear before a magistrates court in the city via video link on Friday morning.

“The tragic murder of Lyra McKee was a reminder that a small minority of individuals continue to seek to cause harm to communities,” Brandon Lewis, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said in a statement posted on social media.

“This was an utterly senseless and shocking crime and I applaud the continued work of the PSNI to bring those responsible to justice,” he added.

McKee’s killing, as she stood beside police and watched a riot in the Creggan area of Londonderry, touched a nerve. Not only was the 29-year-old widely seen as a rising media star, but she had described her generation as “the ceasefire babies”.

Her shooting was swiftly claimed by the dissident republican New IRA group which opposes the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended more than three decades of sectarian violence in the British-ruled region. The riot came the day before the 21st anniversary of the agreement.

The New IRA said McKee had been “tragically killed” while being a bystander and offered “full and sincere apologies” to her family and friends.

It also happened as the border in Northern Ireland was at the centre of a political row over how to enact Brexit following the UK’s 2016 vote to leave the EU.

In a statement, the PSNI said the men were charged with murder and with possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, riot, having and throwing petrol bombs and arson.

The older of the two was also charged with robbery. A third man was charged with rioting and possessing and throwing petrol bombs.

The charges came after four men were arrested this week under the Terrorism Act. The fourth has been released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service, the PSNI said, without giving further details.

Another man, Paul McIntyre, 53, from Londonderry, has already been charged with McKee’s murder.

“I hope this is the start of a process that brings justice for Lyra McKee,” Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist party, wrote on Twitter. The murder was condemned at the time in a rare joint statement by six political parties in Northern Ireland.

But families of victims killed in the Troubles say they are seeing the prospect of justice slipping through their grasp under plans proposed by London that would prevent prosecution of most crimes committed before the Good Friday Agreement.

Together with advocacy group Amnesty International, the victims’ families appealed on Thursday to the UN Human Rights Council to challenge the UK plans “to shield perpetrators and permanently deny justice to victims”.

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