Three RUC officers injured in sectarian violence

 

There have been two incidents of gunfire in Northern Ireland overnight as the recent outbreak of rioting in north Belfast continued.

This morning, a controlled explosion was performed on a device after it was discovered at around 5 a.m. at Serpentine Gardens.

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I urge those in the communities which are afflicted...not to allow themselves to be used by those who have a wider purpose which is to destroy the political process
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Dr John Reid

For the second successive night, a number of shots were fired including a volley from an unidentified gunman using an automatic weapon.

"Police returned four shots after a burst of automatic gunfire was directed at their lines at Ardoyne Road from the area of Glenbryn Drive," a police spokesman said. Earlier, about 10 shots were heard in the nearby Alliance Avenue area.

Thirty primed petrol bombs and almost 200 bottles were seized by officers during planned raids on both loyalist and nationalist areas of north Belfast.

A large quantity of nuts and bolts, sticks, clubs and iron bars, and several wheely bins filled with rubble and bricks were also recovered from alleyways and derelict gardens in Clanchattan Street and Newington Street.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Dr John Reid, said the rioting was a deliberate attempt to wreck the peace process at a delicate time for the Belfast Agreement.

"I urge those in the communities which are afflicted...not to allow themselves to be used by those who have a wider purpose which is to destroy the political process," he told said.

The British and Irish governmentsare due to present a non-negotiable document to pro-Agreement parties early next week.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said while the hot weather was partly to blame for stoking up tensions, the real problem lay with loyalist and republican paramilitaries refusal to disarm.

Accusing the groupings of pursuing local agendas, he said: "Behind it all is the question of what is going to happen with regard to paramilitary organisations."

But Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, a Northern Ireland Assembly member for North Belfast, insisted blame lay solely with loyalist gangs.

"I just think that people need to be restrained, it's very hard for them, I think the people of this area and republicans have shown great restraint and I urge that that continues," he said.

Additional reporting PA &
Reuters