Police and the British army were today investigating the possibility that a blast bomb exploded setting an oil tank on fire during riots between rival factions in Northern Belfast last night.
Police said there were ‘‘major disturbances’’ in the Ardoyne Road area with petrol bombs thrown and a large number of fireworks set off.
There were also claims of up to 10 shots being fired, although no-one was reported injured.
The area was shaken by a large explosion, which a Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman later said was believed to have been a blast bomb which set a tank of domestic heating fuel on fire. He said army bomb experts were investigating.
Police and troops in full riot gear were moved into the area to separate republican and loyalist groups.
The spokesman said their arrival was followed by ‘‘a tense stand-off’’.
Billy Hutchinson, Progressive Unionist Party assembly member for north Belfast, urged police to make quick arrests following the trouble.
Security cameras were recently erected at the interface by the British government.
The loyalist politician said: ‘‘There is bound to be evidence from the cameras as to what happened and I think the police should be at that quickly and making arrests.’’
As usual in the area, both sides blamed the other for starting the violence.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly insisted nationalists wanted nothing but calm.
‘‘This is where Holy Cross school is, they don’t want all this. They want to keep it calm so the kids can go to school quietly in the morning.
‘‘All they want around this area is to calm the situation down, they don’t want to go through what they went through last summer through to Christmas.’’