The human rights group, Amnesty International, has called for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding this morning's attempted robbery in Lusk, Co Dublin.

Two men were shot dead after gardaí engaged armed raiders during the attempted robbery at a post office.

The men have been named as 33-year-old Colm Griffin from Canon Lillis Avenue in Dublin and 24-year-old Eric Hopkins from Lower Rutland Street in Dublin.

It is believed the men arrived at the scene just after 8am in stolen cars with false number plates. Gardaí had had the post office under surveillance. 

It is understood the men were called on to drop their weapons before the gardaí opened fire. One of the men was shot dead at the scene, the other died from gunshot wounds in hospital.

Both men were part of an armed gang that had been under garda surveillance. Gardaí said three other men and a woman were arrested.

A chief superintendent has been appointed to investigate the circumstances of the shootings.

Amnesty International said it needed to be established that the garda officers had done everything possible to avoid shooting the men.

The organisation said the case also highlighted the need for an independent garda ombudsman.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Superintendent Kevin Donoghue said gardaí had intelligence that the raid was to take place.

But he said it was not possible to warn postal staff and customers in advance.

Meanwhile the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has said he hopes the public does not get 'weak kneed' when the gardaí are forced to respond to violent crime.

The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, said that while any loss of life was to be regretted, members of the gardaí must take whatever measures necessary to deal with armed gangs.