Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Three police officers shot in overnight riots in Belfast

ANNUAL BONFIREAs pro-British Protestants burned Irish flags and photos of politicians who favor a united Ireland, violence erupted around midnight


Orangemen march amid tight security past the Nationalist Ardoyne area of North Belfast, Northern Ireland, yesterday.


Three police officers were shot and injured overnight in Belfast, Northern Irish police said yesterday, after an annual display of bonfires stirred unrest.

The disturbances happened near bonfires that pro-British Protestant groups light each year, burning Irish flags and photos of politicians from Catholic backgrounds who want a united Ireland.

As violence erupted shortly before midnight, crowds of up to 200 people threw gasoline bombs and other objects.

Independent police watchdog the Northern Ireland Policing Board said the violence was directed at police.

“Their injuries are not believed to be serious at this time,” a police spokeswoman said.

Police later said 27 officers had been injured in two separate locations during the night, including the three shot, but did not clarify the exact motives for the unrest.

Local media said some of the violence started as police tried to separate people gathering in an Irish nationalist area of the city from those attending bonfires nearby.

Marches are due to take place later yesterday to mark the culmination of a season of parades by Protestants, events which also every year raise tensions with Catholics.

On Saturday a bomb destroyed a bridge in Northern Ireland in an attack police said was also targeted at its officers.

A 1998 peace agreement largely ended three decades of violence between predominantly Catholic groups who want a united Ireland and mainly Protestant unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK.

The main paramilitary organizations on both sides, such as the Provisional IRA, have surrendered their weapons, but militant splinter groups have stepped up attacks recently.

Dissidents have attacked security forces several times, with the Real IRA believed to be leading much of the campaign, including car bombings and shooting at police officers.

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