Thousands of people in Northern Ireland have marched against republican dissidents responsible for killing a police officer and two British soldiers in the British-controlled province.

Catholic and Protestant politicians joined forces Wednesday with demonstrators in Belfast and other cities in a show of unity not seen in decades.  Even members of historically rival paramilitary units took part.

Two British soldiers and a policeman have been killed in the past five days, in Northern Ireland's worst political violence in a decade.  Provincial newspapers and four major church denominations - Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist - had urged the entire community to renounce the violence.

Pope Benedict, in a statement, condemned the killings, calling them "abominable acts of terrorism" that endanger the entire peace process.

The splinter group Continuity IRA claimed responsibility for killing the police officer late Monday.

Police announced two arrests Tuesday.  A separate splinter group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility for the killing of the two soldiers last week north of Belfast.  No arrests have been announced in that attack, which wounded four other people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters