LONDON (AP) — Seven men appeared in court Monday on charges of attempted murder related to the February attack on a senior Northern Ireland police officer who was shot after his son’s soccer practice.
The suspects, ranging in age from 28 to 72, appeared by video link at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Belfast. They were ordered to remain in custody.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was seriously wounded when gunmen opened fire on him at a sports complex in Omagh as he put soccer balls into the trunk of his car after coaching an under-15 team.
A dissident splinter group of the Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the Feb. 22 attack on Caldwell, who has led investigations into killings, organized crime and paramilitary groups.
The shooting came less than two months before the 25th anniversary of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which largely ended the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. Although the main Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups gave up violence and put down their weapons, IRA splinter groups continue to mount sporadic attacks on security forces.
Politicians from across Ireland’s political divide, including the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein — which was allied with the IRA during decades of Catholic-Protestant violence — condemned the attack on Caldwell.
Caldwell, who was hospitalized for several weeks after the shooting, made a public appearance during a garden party during King Charles III’s visit to Northern Ireland last week.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said Saturday that seven men had been charged with attempted murder in connection with the attack on Caldwell. Two of the suspects were also charged with membership in a proscribed organization, namely the IRA, and three charged with the preparation of terrorist acts.
Omagh, about 60 miles (almost 100 kilometers) west of Belfast, was the site of the deadliest attack during “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, an August 1998 car bombing that killed 29 people. A dissident republican group called the Real IRA claimed responsibility for that attack.