DUBLIN (AP) — A senior figure in Ireland's criminal underworld was chased down the street and shot to death Tuesday near his Dublin home, two years after surviving a similar assassination bid, in the latest chapter of a long-running feud involving Irish Republican Army die-hards.
Eamon Kelly, a 65-year-old gang chief dubbed "The Godfather" by Dublin's tabloid press, was shot up to six times as he fled from a lone gunman in northeast Dublin, a police detective told The Associated Press. The Real IRA paramilitary group was suspected of being behind the hit.
Kelly's crime empire has been increasingly at odds with Real IRA figures, who in recent years have demanded a slice of the gangsters' drug-trafficking profits in exchange for not killing them or burning down their business fronts.
In September 2010, a Real IRA man tried to shoot Kelly outside his home, but the gun jammed. The would-be killer initially walked away, then ran back to the cowering Kelly to try again, pressing the gun to his temple, but the gun jammed again.
Authorities believe Kelly's side exacted its revenge two months ago, killing the Real IRA leader in Dublin, Alan Ryan, who received a full paramilitary funeral including gunshots over his casket.
But on Tuesday, the detective said, a suspected two-man Real IRA team again was waiting for Kelly to leave his home. One gunman got out of the car, chased Kelly down the street, shot him in the back and head, then jumped back in the getaway car with a police unit in hot pursuit. The attackers abandoned the car and tried to escape on foot, but officers chased down and tackled one of them.
Police allege that Kelly was a leading member of a gang that robbed banks and armored-car cash shipments in Dublin in the 1980s and became a pioneer of Ireland's burgeoning cocaine trade. In 1993, he became Ireland's first crime kingpin to be convicted of possessing cocaine and received a 14-year prison sentence.
The detective spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter with media.
Since leaving prison a decade ago, Kelly has overseen a sharp rise in tit-for-tat violence, according to authorities. Police allege that his longtime deputy, Eamon "the Don" Dunne, oversaw at least 17 murders from 2005 to his own death in 2010, when he was shot eight times in the head as he sat drinking in a Dublin pub .
Gangland killings today are regular occurrences in working-class parts of Dublin and the southwest city of Limerick, where two rival crime clans, the Keane-Collopy and McCarthy-Dundon gangs, have been killing each other —and occasionally civilian bystanders — for a decade. The warfare includes frequent use of pipe bombs and under-car booby trap bombs, most of which fail to detonate.
That grim reality has inspired the country's most popular television drama, "Love/Hate," an ultra-violent and profane depiction of Dublin gang warfare.
The Real IRA is one of several small Irish Republican Army factions that continue to mount occasional gun and bomb attacks in the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland. But south of the Irish border its members are primarily engaged in criminal rackets, particularly fuel and cigarette smuggling in competition with other gangs.