A prison warder has died in an apparent IRA attack on his way to Maghaberry prison today.
He was ambushed on a stretch of the M1 between Portadown and Lurgan in County Armagh.
One unconfirmed report claimed he was shot from another vehicle which then sped away. The man was on his way to begin duty at the top-security Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, County Antrim, where republican prisoners have been involved in long-running protests against jail conditions.
A car suspected of being linked to the attack was later found burnt-out at Lurgan.
The attack has come as a surprise to the political establishment. There had been little direct conflict in the North since July, when a number of breakaway IRA groups announced that they had regrouped to form a new organisation carrying the name.
British military intelligence last week lowered the threat of an IRA attack on British soil from “severe” to “moderate”.
British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers also claimed that the number of attacks in the Six Counties had declined by 20% from last year, while warning that the threat in the North remained “severe”.
Sinn Fein Assembly member John O’Dowd said the shooting was “totally wrong”.
“There is no justification for continued conflict in this society,” he said.
“We, as a society, have decided we want to move beyond them. The road they are on is not going to achieve anything.”