DUBLIN — Suspected IRA diehards killed a Northern Ireland prison officer Thursday in a gun ambush as he drove to work, the first killing of a prison guard in nearly two decades in the British territory.
Police said a gunman in a passing car shot David Black, 52, several times as he drove onto the M1 motorway southwest of Belfast. His car plummeted down a grassy embankment into a ditch.
Police found the attackers’ suspected getaway car burned out in the nearby town of Lurgan, a power base for the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, two factions opposed to Northern Ireland’s peace process. The car had Dublin license plates.
No group claimed responsibility. Politicians and police commanders said IRA militants were inevitably to blame and pilloried the various IRA splinter groups still in existence as politically pointless.
‘‘These killers will not succeed in denying the people of Northern Ireland the peaceful, shared future they so desperately want,’’ Prime Minister David Cameron said.
The government of the neighboring Republic of Ireland pledged to help hunt down those responsible.