Two girls injured in north Belfast blast

 

Two girls, aged eight and 11, were taken to hospital tonight following an explosion in north Belfast which police said they believed was caused by some form of blast bomb.

Earlier a man was shot and injured when violence erupted between rival factions in north Belfast.

The RUC Assistant Chief Constable for Belfast, Mr lan McQuillan, said: "We believe at this stage that it was some form of blast device and that it was thrown from the loyalist side towards the nationalists and that the children injured were on the nationalist side. But is early days yet."

The children were hurt as rival factions continued to throw fireworks at each other and engaged in sporadic stoning at several spots in north Belfast.

A loyalist man was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he underwent surgery following the shooting incident when violence erupted at Hallidays Road in north Belfast this afternoon.

The RUC said about 100 nationalists and 50 loyalists were separated by police in full riot gear as the groups pelting each other with missiles.

There were also reports of other shootings in the Limestone Road and Hallidays Road areas during the clashes.

The British army bomb disposal team also defused an unexploded pipe bomb and made safe a large firework with shrapnel attached. A third suspect package proved to be a hoax.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party MP for north Belfast, Mr Nigel Dodds, accused the IRA of being behind a gun attack where the loyalist man was injured.

But Mr McQuillan said while the RUC had found the firing point for the shooting and it was on the nationalist side, it was too early to say which organisation was responsible.

Additional reporting PA