Police have arrested a fifth man in connection with the attempted murder of an off-duty police officer in Omagh, Co Tyrone, and confirmed the attack was “terrorist-related”, with the New IRA the “primary line of inquiry”.
Det Chief Inspector John Caldwell remains critically ill in hospital and it is understood he has suffered life-changing injuries.
He was shot in front of his young son in the attack at a sports complex where he had been coaching a youth team on Wednesday evening in a attack suspected to be linked to the dissident republican group the New IRA.
Mr Caldwell ran a short distance and fell to the ground where the attackers continued to fire at him as children ran to safety, police said. He was operated on immediately after the attack and he underwent further surgery on Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, the PSNI said a fifth man (43) was arrested in the Stewartstown area under the Terrorism Act on Friday and is currently being questioned by detectives in Musgrave Serious Crime Suite.
Four men, aged 22, 38, 45 and 47, remain in police custody where they are being questioned.
Investigations are continuing on both sides of the Border and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has assured PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne that the Garda will offer any assistance it can.
The PSNI’s main line of inquiry is that dissident republicans were responsible, with a “primary focus” on the New IRA.
On Friday, the assistant chief constable for crime department, Mark McEwan, said the PSNI was now treating the attack as “terrorist-related” and confirmed the “primary line of inquiry is the New IRA”.
He called on anyone with information to call 101, quoting reference number 1831 of 22/02/23 or, if they would rather remain anonymous, to contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
DCI Caldwell is a high-profile detective who worked on major murder investigations including that of Natalie McNally in Lurgan in December and constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh in 2011.
The chief constable described him as “a valued police officer for 26 years, committed to public service” who was “held in the highest esteem within our organisation. He is a credit to his family and to the police service.”
The attack was widely condemned by politicians, church leaders and civic society across Ireland and Britain and in the town of Omagh.
Representatives from the five parties are due to meet the chief constable on Friday and are expected to discuss the terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland, which was lowered from “severe” to “substantial” last year.