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Monday 23 April 2018

Bonfire night riots erupt, seven police hurt in Belfast

Amanda Poole

Viloence erupted on the streets of Belfast last night as police came under attack from youths throwing petrol bombs and stones.

A number of petrol bombs, paint bombs, stones and other missiles were thrown at officers and children as young as 14 were spotted in the crowds of people causing trouble.

The PSNI said most areas throughout the province remained calm but trouble flared in the Falls Road, Broadway, New Lodge, Donegall Road and Oldpark areas of the city.

Motorists were advised to avoid these areas as police responded to sporadic violence from around 11pm onwards.

Around 200 rioters attacked police lines at Broadway, leading officers to fire plastic bullets and use two water cannons.

There were also reports that a gunman was seen among the crowd at the scene.

Around 40 people gathered in North Queen Street in the New Lodge area where petrol was thrown at police and set alight.

At least seven police officers sustained injuries, but they were not believed to be life-threatening.

Last night, SDLP councillor Colin Keenan told the Belfast Telegraph people were arriving in cars intent on causing trouble and the atmosphere was tense.

“I am on the ground with colleagues trying to keep things calm. We are witnessing disgraceful scenes and people keep arriving.” Mr Keenan said.

“There are boys and men concealing their identity by pulling hoodies up and by putting scarves across their faces.

“You don’t do that if you are just out for a peaceful night out.”

A van was driven at police and then set on fire on the Broadway Road and a bus hijacked on the Falls Road was also driven at police lines on the Donegall Road but crashed a short distance away.

Mr Keenan added: “The bus crashed into the garden of a house on the Donegall Road. The police had difficulty getting it removed, as recovery people won’t come into the area.”

One Broadway resident, who did not want to be identified, said he dreads this time of year. “Year on year it’s the same story repeated,” he said.

Last night, a police spokeswoman said: “There are no arrests at this stage. Police continue to liaise with community representatives in an effort to maintain calm.”

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service dealt with a total of 180 fire calls between 6pm last night and 1am this morning — a 65% increase on last year’s figure.

Most of the calls were in the Greater Belfast area.

One fire engine was damaged in Belfast last night and one firefighter was slightly injured by stone-throwing youths in Derry.

Belfast Telegraph

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