Police fire baton rounds as parade attacked

Police and Orangemen came under attack tonight as a controversial Twelfth of July parade was escorted through a notorious flashpoint in Belfast.

Heavily armed riot police flanked the Orange lodge members as they made their way past the Ardoyne shops in the north of the city.

Petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and other missiles were thrown by nationalists angry that the annual march was allowed to take a route past their area.

Police fired baton rounds and deployed a water cannon in an effort to subdue the rioters.

Earlier, around 60 demonstrators who had blocked the road in a sit-down protest were forcibly removed by officers in body armour.

As the incident unfolded a large crowd of loyalists gathered further up the road in a predominantly unionist neighbourhood to await the Orangemen, who were returning from the main Belfast Twelfth commemoration.

The disturbances came after three police officers were shot during another bout of rioting in the city last night.

The two policemen and one policewoman were blasted with a shotgun fired by a masked man who emerged from a crowd of nationalists who attacked the police as traditional Protestant 11th Night celebrations took place.

Another 24 officers sustained injuries in that and a further separate riot in Belfast last night. Police said none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Tonight’s clashes at the Ardoyne were the most serious during a day marked by sporadic violence across the North.

In south Belfast, police were attacked by petrol bombers as an Orange march passed another traditional flashpoint at the Ormeau bridge.

Elsewhere in the city a hijacked bus containing a suspicious device was abandoned outside Woodburn police station. It was later declared an elaborate hoax.

A car was later hijacked in the Oldpark Road area of north Belfast and found abandoned on nearby Alliance Avenue.

There was also trouble away from Belfast during a day that saw thousands of Orangemen attend events to mark the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over the army of Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In Lurgan, Co Armagh, youths tried to set fire to the Belfast to Dublin train as it stopped at a level crossing.

The driver managed to drive to safety. It is understood none of the 55 passengers on board was hurt.

Police also came under attack from petrol bombers in the town.

Meanwhile, in Armagh city a vehicle was reportedly set on fire as a large crowd of youths gathered in the Killylea Road area.

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