An Irishman was shot dead Thursday morning by Bolivian police who say they foiled a plot to kill President Eva Morales.

Bolivian news reports said that 24-year-old Michael Dwyer from County Tipperary, who was gunned down by an elite army unit, was part of a group which was plotting against Morales.

Dwyer, a so-called “soldier of fortune,” was killed along with two other men in a dramatic police shootout in the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz in eastern Bolivia.

Bolivian police were attempting to arrest Dwyer, along with Bolivian Eduardo Rosza Flores, 49, and Romanian sniper Magyarosi Arpak when the three fled to a nearby hotel.

The group, which is also thought to be responsible for a dynamite attack on the home of a Bolivian cardinal, detonated a grenade blowing out the hotel’s windows amid the gunfight.

Friends of  Dwyer were last night leaving messages on the Bebo networking site, with one message saying simply “RIP bro”.

Bebo posts describe Dwyer as a man obsessed with guns and assassins. He also spoke of getting a new tattoo in recent weeks.

Police commander Victor Hugo Escóbar said he believed that all three were trained in the same paramilitary center because they all had similar tattoos. He said they were “very dangerous and determined to launch attacks”.

La Prensa, a Bolivian newspaper, described Dwyer as a soldier of fortune who fought in the international brigade of the extreme right-wing Croatian Liberation Movement. 

Dwyer’s Bebo page said he was happiest when “cruising in my new bmw in south America” and likened himself to “The Jackal” character portrayed by Bruce Willis. 

When asked “What type of gun would you use?” he answered, ”9mm/silenced. Good weapon and easy to obtain being the simply finish the job guns used around the world”. He also described himself as a sniper.

Friends and family clearly had no idea what he was up to in South America. In recent days, many  had posted messages asking when he was coming home.