Prominent dissident Republican Tommy Crossan shot dead in west Belfast
Prominent dissident Republican Tommy Crossan has been shot dead in west Belfast
The fatal shooting happened near the Peter Pan Centre industrial estate on the Springfield Road just before 5pm on Good Friday.
A section of the Springfield Road has been closed to traffic while police investigate the scene.
Mr Crossan served six years in Maghaberry prison for conspiracy to murder RUC officers following a gun attack on a police station in west Belfast.
He was the former commanding officer of the Continuity IRA - a hardline republican terrorist group opposed to the Irish peace process.
He was also a father of four, and had been warned that his life was in danger some years ago after being threatened.
He told the Sunday World: "I'm going nowhere. My conscience is clear."
'Shadow of death'
SDLP Councillor Colin Keenan, who lives nearby, has released a statement condemning the murder adding: "in doing so I reflect the view of all of the community."
He said: "There is a real sense of shock that this has happened.
"I was on the scene shortly after this tragic event and I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the victim's family.
"We have long hoped that the shadow of death had been lifted from West Belfast.
"Today’s event is a terrible, tragic reminder of the violent conflict of the past.”
Tommy Crossan told The Observer in 2000 that hunger striker Bobby Sands was "one of his great heroes".
"I was ten when he died, that's when I became interested in republicanism but everything he fought for has been sold out," he said.
"Prisoners like him died for political status, and now it's being taken away from republicans at a time Sinn Fein are doing something they vowed they would never do - sit in a Stormont government."
The CIRA murdered Police Constable Stephen Carroll in Lurgan in Co Armagh in March 2009. It has since been riven with splits.
Members of the security forces have been on high alert for attacks by various extremist factions who have also killed two soldiers and a prison officer.
In recent weeks they have stepped up efforts to kill police officers, with several attacks on the force in West Belfast.
After the murder of prison officer David Black on the M1 motorway in November 2012, police mounted an unprecedented surveillance operation against various factions as well making significant arrests.
CIRA was formed after splits in the Provisional IRA in 1986. However, it was mainstream Sinn Fein and the IRA's decision to sign up to non-violence principles during all-party talks in the run-up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that prompted Crossan to embrace dissident republicanism.
Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly Member Jennifer McCann said those behind Crossan's killing had no consideration for anyone in the community except themselves and their own criminal agenda.
She added: "They have shot a man dead and endangered anyone in the immediate vicinity.
"There is now a family in mourning and a community traumatised by this shooting.
"It will not go unnoticed that, with sadness, at Easter time as republicans gather to commemorate their patriot dead, that there are criminals on the streets masquerading as republicans for their own ends.
"This community does not want them. They need to listen to this community, stop these senseless actions and go away."
Justice Minister David Ford said the murder should be condemned by all.
"I condemn this appalling crime and offer my sympathies to the family," said the Alliance Party leader.
He added: "Those responsible for this cowardly act will be pursued by the authorities and I would urge anyone with information to pass it to the police or the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111."
Additional reporting by PA