Police investigating Hamas ‘fighter’ image have received a number of reports

Police investigating an image of a person dressed as a Hamas “fighter” during a Halloween event in Northern Ireland say they have received a number of reports.

The development came after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) suggested the image may have been fake.

However, later on Thursday evening, Chief Superintendent Nigel Goddard said a number of reports had been received and there were further images on social media.

Police inquiries are ongoing into the issue after an image was circulated on social media which appeared to show a person in the Guildhall Square in Londonderry dressed in a camouflage uniform.

PSNI interim chief constable Jon Boutcher had said earlier on Thursday he was aware of a suggestion it could have been generated by artificial intelligence.

“None of our police officers saw anybody in that outfit. Nobody has made a complaint to either the staff who were stewarding or security for the event, and the event took place over three or four days,” he told a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

“There is no trace of it whatsoever, and there has been a suggestion made to me – and this will be interesting if this is the case – that it might even have been some sort of artificial intelligence image that was presented and has been circulated.

“I don’t know at the moment, I can’t give you an answer on that, but that was the suggestion last night.

“The officers were very alive to the irresponsibility and the potential criminality of somebody dressing like that.

“At the moment we can’t find any witnesses or anybody saying that someone was walking around dressed like that during the events of Halloween, so the jury is out on that.”

Northern Ireland Policing Board meeting
Interim PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher (third right, facing) during a Northern Ireland Policing Board meeting in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Derry City and Strabane District Commander Chief Superintendent Nigel Goddard said they had made a “number of inquiries” in relation to the image, including a public appeal and a check of CCTV in the city centre.

Mr Goddard said in the statement released at 12.39pm on Thursday that there had not been any reports from someone who saw the person in Guildhall Square dressed in this way, or of other images online.

In an update from the PSNI sent out just before 8pm, Mr Goddard said they had “received a number of reports of a person dressed in a uniform in the city centre of Derry/Londonderry during the Halloween festival”.

“We are also aware of additional images circulating on social media,” he said, adding that inquiries were ongoing.

Mr Boutcher said there continue to be “steady protests and parading activity related to the Middle East conflict” but he said Northern Ireland has “not seen the issues related to extremism that appeared elsewhere in the UK”.

“I have made personal contact with both the Jewish and Muslim communities with regards to those protests,” he said.

“We have got an extremely experienced commander in charge of that activity and a well-rehearsed plan to deal with that protest, that, so far, with the engagement taking place by our officers and staff, has worked outstandingly well.”