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New IRA admits responsibility for killing Northern Ireland journalist Lyra McKee

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Dissident republican group the New IRA on Tuesday admitted responsibility for killing Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee during rioting in Londonderry last week, in a statement to The Irish News.

The New IRA “offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death”, it said in a statement reported by the Irish newspaper, which said the paramilitary group used a recognised codeword.

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McKee, 29, was shot in the head late Thursday as dissident republicans clashed with police in the Creggan housing estate in Northern Ireland’s second city, also known as Derry.

While admitting responsibility, the New IRA attempted to justify its actions by claiming she was killed during an attack on “enemy forces” and accused police of provoking the riot which preceded her death.

“In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces,” the statement said.

“On Thursday night, following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage,” the New IRA statement said, according to The Irish News.

In the wake of her death, Northern Ireland’s six main political parties including rival unionists and republicans who have been unable to form a devolved government for more than two years issued a rare joint statement.

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“It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere,” it read.

The killing, the latest upsurge in violence to shake the troubled region, came in the run-up to Easter weekend, when republicans opposed to the British presence in Northern Ireland mark the anniversary of a 1916 uprising against British rule.

A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry earlier this year were also blamed on a dissident paramilitary group.

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The 1998 Good Friday peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of sectarian bloodshed between republican and unionist paramilitaries, as well as British armed forces, in a period known as “the Troubles”.

Some 3,500 people were killed in the conflict many at the hands of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

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The group called a final ceasefire in 1997 and announced an end to its armed campaign in 2005, stating that it would seek to achieve its aims through peaceful political means.

The New IRA is one of a number of dissident republican paramilitary groups opposed to the shift towards non-violent tactics to bring about a united Ireland.

There have been concerns that paramilitaries could be seeking to exploit the current political turbulence over Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic of Ireland caused by Brexit.

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McKee’s funeral will be held on Wednesday at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

“It’s going to be a celebration of her life,” her partner Sara Canning said in a Facebook post, urging people to wear Harry Potter or Marvel-themed T-shirts. “I know she would love it.”


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Google tightens political ads policy in effort to stop abuse

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Google on Wednesday updated how it handles political ads as online platforms remain under pressure to avoid being used to spread misleading information intended to influence voters.

The internet company said its rules already ban any advertiser, including those with political messages, from lying in ads. But it is making its policy more clear and adding examples of how that prohibits content such as doctored or manipulated images or video.

"It's against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim -- whether it's a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died," Google ads product management vice president Scott Spencer said in an online post.

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Pope Francis begins Asia tour with visit to Buddhist temple

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Pope Francis will visit one of Thailand's famed gilded temples Thursday to meet the supreme Buddhist patriarch, on the first full day of his Asian tour aimed at promoting religious harmony.

The 82-year-old pontiff is on his first visit to Buddhist majority Thailand, where he will spend four days before setting off to Japan.

His packed schedule a day after touching down in Bangkok includes a meeting with the king and the prime minister before leading an evening mass expected to draw tens of thousands of people from across Thailand, where just over 0.5 percent of the population is Catholic.

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Hong Kong campus stalemate persists while US congress passes bill of support for democracy protesters

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Hardline Hong Kong protesters held their ground on Thursday in a university besieged for days by police as the US passed a bill lauding the city's pro-democracy movement, setting up a likely clash between Washington and Beijing.

Beijing did not immediately respond to the passage in Washington of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which voices strong support for the "democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong people."

But China had already threatened retaliation if the bill is signed into law by President Donald Trump, and state-run media warned Thursday the legislation would not prevent Beijing from intervening forcefully to stop the "mess" gripping the financial hub.

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