Police attacked in fourth night of rioting

Police in the North have come under attack from republican rioters for the fourth night in succession.

Police in the North have come under attack from republican rioters for the fourth night in succession.

Petrol bombs were thrown at officers and a car burned out at the Ardoyne shops flashpoint in north Belfast.

The disorder at the notorious interface was not as sustained as it had been over the previous three nights with fewer rioters taking part.

More than 80 police officers have been injured this week in disturbances across the North as tensions surrounding the Protestant July 12 commemorations erupted into violence and disorder.

Yesterday Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness insisted the dissident republicans who were orchestrating the riots would not drag the region back to the dark days of the Troubles.

Police CCTV images from Ardoyne have shown that most of the rioters were teenagers and in some cases children as young as eight, but commanders believe sinister elements opposed to the peace process are directing the disorder.

"It is quite clear that there are groups out there who are committed to try to plunge our society back into conflict," Mr McGuinness said after he and First Minister Peter Robinson met Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

"One thing is absolutely certain - they will not succeed. They will not succeed because we are determined to stand together and use all our resources to ensure that they do not achieve their worst aim and I think as we go forward we go forward in unity."

The Sinn Féin MP's comments came as British Prime Minister David Cameron branded the rioters' actions "completely unacceptable" and paid tribute to the "restraint" and bravery shown by the police.

While the police have pledged to identify and round up the perpetrators, surveillance images showing officers holding the line in the face of wave after wave of attack have prompted questions as to why more concerted attempts to arrest the rioters were not made at the time.

Among the critics were the chairman of Stormont's justice committee Lord Morrow and the father of a policewoman who sustained head injuries when a breeze block was dropped on her head from a roof at the Ardoyne.

But police chiefs have defended the tactics, stressing that launching a major arrest operation during the riots would have inflamed the situation and put officers at more risk.

Mr Baggott said the restraint shown by police was truly world class.

"We will now move forward to the next phase which will be about bringing those to justice who sought to bring misery back to our streets and to take us back into the past," he said.

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