Police under fire as sectarian gangs run riot

Shots were fired at police as they kept apart rival mobs during the latest bout of sectarian rioting in strife-torn north Belfast.

Shots were fired at police as they kept apart rival mobs during the latest bout of sectarian rioting in strife-torn north Belfast.

There were no reports of injuries after officers came under fire in the Carlisle Circus area.

Earlier last night, several people were injured as warring factions stoned each other in the flashpoint North Queen Street area and a man in his 20s was struck by a silver-coloured car.

A metal trolley was then launched at a police vehicle as officers responded, bouncing off and hitting a number of people.

A police spokesman could not confirm reports that one Catholic girl was taken to hospital with suspected broken legs following the incident.

Sinn Fein councillor Gerard Brophy claimed the trouble had been instigated by top loyalist paramilitaries in the area.

‘‘I stood and watched leading UDA figures instigate this from midday onwards,’’ he said.

Meanwhile fighting also erupted in the nearby Whitewell district.

At least one house in Serpentine Gardens was badly damaged, police said.

There was also reports of Catholic and Protestant teenagers attacking each other with stones in the Ardoyne district, scene of last year’s protests near the Holy Cross primary school.

Billy Hutchinson, a Northern Ireland Assembly member with the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party, accused the army of being ‘‘heavy handed’’.

‘‘It was just kids on each side stoning each other,’’ he said.

The latest violence came after a weekend of vicious clashes which saw more than 30 police officers and 10 civilians injured during two nights of trouble.

The rioting involving crowds of up to 800-strong prompted The Lord Mayor of Belfast to call for water cannons to be deployed in the north of the city.

During the violence on Saturday and Sunday rival nationalists and loyalists attacked each other, and the police, with axes, iron bars, baseball bats and breeze blocks.

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