Appeal for witnesses after police clash with rioters in west Belfast

The North's Police Ombudsman appealed for witnesses today after officers fired baton rounds during riots in west Belfast.

The North's Police Ombudsman appealed for witnesses today after officers fired baton rounds during riots in west Belfast.

The PSNI came under sustained attack on Saturday night from a 100-strong crowd throwing stones, fireworks, paint and petrol bombs.

A total of six officers and nine police vehicles were damaged at Broadway near the M1.

The use of Attenuated Energy Projectiles (AEPs) is being investigated by the Ombudsman Al Hutchinson’s office, routine procedure whenever the police discharge a firearm.

A 16-year-old boy is in a stable condition at the Royal Hospital after he was hit by an AEP, a hospital spokeswoman confirmed.

A spokesman for the Ombudsman said: “We are looking to get a clear understanding of what happened and are interested in speaking to people who may have witnessed the disturbances in the area between 8pm on Saturday evening and 4am on Sunday morning.”

The disturbances came after similar scenes on Friday night when four police vehicles sustained damage.

On Saturday night police suffered head and body wounds. One was struck on the head with an iron bar.

More police Land Rovers were damaged by rioters armed with sign posts, pieces of masonry and, in one instance, an axe.

Gas cylinders were also thrown into the road at the Broadway roundabout and a car set alight.

A fast-food restaurant was broken into and significant damage caused. Two tills were later recovered.

Police were forced to close the Stockman’s Lane off slip on the M1 and the Westlink at Clifton Street at around 11.40pm due to the danger of items landing on the carriageway or striking passing vehicles.

The trouble was finally quelled at around 3am.

Police believe some of the rioters may have come from outside the local area and are appealing for the public’s help in identifying all involved.

At the North/South Ministerial Council meeting in Dublin, First Minister Peter Robinson said there was no possibility of economic growth if society was not at peace and there was political instability.

He said nobody in the North who has “more than two brain cells to rub together wants to go back to the bad old days of the past”.

“I think we need to treat as pariahs those who would seek to take us there,” he said.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who also attended the Farmleigh meeting, echoed Mr Robinson’s comments.

He said there were still “Neanderthals” within society who remain involved in confrontation.

Referring to the weekend violence in Belfast, he said peace was the only “sane” way forward.

“Quite clearly there appears to be some evidence that there are still people out there who believe that this sort of conflict is in their own interests,” he said.

“It’s certainly not in the wider interests of the people that we represent and I believe that the only sensible process that those people can engage in is to desist from these stupid and very dangerous activities.”

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