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Funeral for murdered Northern Ireland police officer

A funeral service for a police officer gunned down by dissident republicans will take place in Northern Ireland today.

Hundreds are expected at St Therese's Church in Banbridge to pay their last respects to 48-year-old Stephen Carroll, who was murdered by the Continuity IRA as he attended a call for help from a distressed woman in nearby Craigavon on Monday night.

His killing came 48 hours after two British soldiers, Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Patrick Azimkar, 21, from London, were shot dead by the Real IRA outside Massereene Army base in Antrim.

The re-emergence of violence in Northern Ireland more than a decade after the Good Friday peace agreement has prompted an outcry from all sides of the community and on Wednesday tens of thousands attended peace vigils across the region to voice their disgust.

Ahead of his funeral, Pc Carroll's widow Kate made an emotional plea for his death to be the last in the conflict.

She said her only wish was that he did not die in vain.

"I hope that this is last time that anybody has to suffer what I've suffered as a result of what happened to Steve," said the mother-of-one.

"He thought this war was over, but obviously not and I just can't believe this has all started up again.

"If Steve's death has made a positive effect on all of this that's all I care about. It's a hard lesson for everyone to learn but if it brings something positive out of it then fine, but I don't want Steven to have died in vain."

Detectives investigating the officer's killing were last night granted a further five days to question a 17-year-old boy and a 37-year-old man arrested near the murder scene on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the Army paid solemn farewell to the two murdered soldiers during a moving preparation for their return to England for burial.

Family and friends joined in the regimental farewell at the Massereene Barracks.

The bodies of Sappers Quinsey and Azimkar will be flown home over the coming days for funerals expected to take place next week.

Two other soldiers and two civilian pizza delivery men seriously injured in the gun attack remain in hospital.

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