A bus was on Wednesday hijacked and set on fire in Belfast in a sixth consecutive night of violence in Northern Ireland.
The vehicle was set alight at an intersectional area between nationalist and unionist communities, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.
Stones were thrown at police while a press photographer was assaulted on Wednesday evening at the intersection of Lanark Way and Shankill Road in west Belfast.
Tires and garbage cans were set on fire near the interface gates at Lanark Way, which open in a wall that separates the two communities.
The PSNI said they had closed the gates and advised people to avoid the area.
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster — leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which is in favor of Britain’s presence in Northern Ireland — condemned the attack, writing on Twitter: “There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also condemned the violence on Twitter: “I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist. The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”
Footage circulating on Twitter appeared to show the bus being hit by a fire bomb while still moving, with about a dozen masked people — including some who seemed to be children — being cheered on as they ran from the scene.
The loyalist gathering at Lanark Way was organized through social media, with Facebook posts shared on other platforms.
Dozens of youths dressed in dark clothing gathered after 5pm, watched by others who appeared to have come for the spectacle — one elderly woman came in a bathrobe.
Some youths set a fire in the middle of the road, while others collected rocks and distributed fire bombs shortly before the attack on the bus.
Youths from the adjacent nationalist Springfield Road area had monitored the loyalist social media posts and responded with their own barrage of rocks and bottles on a loyalist district, prompting more than a dozen police Land Rovers to seal off the interface.
“It should be nipped in the bud,” Cailin McCaffrey, 25, said. “The fear is that the disturbances will get bigger. We don’t want to relive what our parents lived.”
Since Friday last week there has been nightly violence in parts of Northern Ireland, including in Belfast, Derry and parts of county Antrim, fueled by loyalist anger over a decision not to prosecute Sinn Fein leaders over their attendance at a mass funeral.
The Democratic Unionist party has expressed fury over the decision, with Foster saying that it reflects one rule for Sinn Fein and another for ordinary voters.
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