DUBLIN — Authorities blamed a resurgent Irish Republican Army faction Thursday for killing two men in separate gun attacks in Northern Ireland, the first such slayings in the British territory in nearly a year.
So-called ‘‘New IRA’’ militants claimed responsibility for killing Kevin Kearney, a 46-year-old Irish Catholic, on Tuesday in a Belfast park. Police found his body floating in a lake Wednesday and said he had been shot.
A second man was fatally shot in his apartment Thursday in the center of Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second-largest city. IRA extremists again were suspected.
Police and politicians said both victims may have been targeted because of involvement in drug dealing. Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway said Kearney had served prison time for drug-related offenses. Peter Robinson, the Protestant leader of Northern Ireland’s unity government, said there was ‘‘no justification for anyone taking justice into their own hands.’’
IRA members have been behind scores of shootings and death threats since 2009 against alleged drug dealers in the predominantly Catholic city. Gerry Kelly of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party accused the militants of extorting money from dealers in exchange for protection, while those who refuse to pay bribes are targeted.
Also Thursday, police and British Army bomb experts evacuated homes in two parts of Belfast while dealing with suspected bombs. Both alerts — regularly staged by IRA splinter groups — were declared hoaxes.