DUBLIN (AP) — An Irish Republican Army faction claimed responsibility Monday for killing a reputed member of a drug-dealing gang in a machine gun attack on a Dublin boxing event — and threatened to kill more criminal rivals as part of a long-running underworld feud.
The outlawed Continuity IRA said its members killed 33-year-old David Byrne in retaliation for a 2012 killing of a senior IRA figure in Dublin.
That claim drew skepticism in police and political circles, where speculation has focused instead on well-documented tensions between rival drug-trafficking gangs. However, members of IRA splinter groups run their own criminal rackets, have done business with both sides in that deadly feud, and have issued previous threats to retaliate for any attacks on their supporters.
Police have yet to arrest anyone following Friday's daylight assault on fans attending the weigh-in ceremonies for a Dublin boxing event that attracted criminal figures from Ireland and Spain.
Witnesses say Byrne, a reputed lieutenant in a trafficking gang overseen by Gerry "The Monk" Hutch, was singled out by gunmen and riddled with bullets beside the reception desk of the Regency Hotel. Two other men were wounded.
Detectives leading the 100-officer murder investigation say the attackers were three men armed with assault rifles and dressed as police emergency response officers with balaclavas, body armor and helmets; a thin young man disguised as a woman and a heavy-set older man, both armed with handguns; and a getaway driver. Most of the suspects were photographed either during the attack or when fleeing on foot from the hotel. Police say they have identified some attackers but suspect that some or all have fled Ireland.
The Continuity IRA statement, issued to the BBC in Belfast using an authenticating code word, said Byrne and his associates in the hotel were targeted in retaliation for the 2012 killing of Alan Ryan, Dublin leader of a sister faction called the Real IRA.
"Continuity IRA units have been authorized to carry out further operations. More drug dealers and criminals will be targeted," the BBC quoted the statement as saying.