Police officers injured in Belfast rioting

 

A number of Police Service of Northern Ireland officers were injured this evening as rival mobs engaged in running street battles in riot-scarred north Belfast.

The security forces moved in to saturate the Limestone Road, the scene of almost nightly bitter sectarian violence between Protestant and Catholic youths.

A PSNI spokesman said a number of officers had been injured by bricks and other missiles as the fighting continued for around an hour.

The area is reported to be quiet at the moment but extremely tense. Loyalist community leaders accused the police of heavy handedness, claiming that officers had fired five plastic baton rounds as they chased rioters into the Tiger's Bay area.

Loyalists tonight accused officers of brutality. They claimed a number of people had received head injuries after riot squad officers batoned them to the ground.

Mr Alfie McCrory, a community worker from the Shankill area, who had come to the Limestone Road to observe the trouble, said one woman was struck by a baton as she videoed police swamping the area.

"I don't condone what is going on here but when a girl was using a video camera they (the police) cracked her on the head."

The police spokesman could not comment on the claims and was unable to confirm whether any baton rounds had been fired.

Sinn Féin councillor Mr Eoin O'Brion said the latest wave of violence began when a loyalist mob attacked Catholic houses in Park End Street.

"We are trying to keep it as calm as possible and take people off the streets," he said.

Mr O'Brion called for talks to end the mayhem.

The police spokesman said one of the injured officers has since been taken to hospital.

He said the trouble began around 6.35 p.m. when officers came under petrol bomb attack in the Newington Street area.

"As trouble escalated, police fired one plastic baton round as they were attacked by a barrage of bricks, bottles and masonry," he added.

PA