ONE hundred and thirteen police officers were injured after serious rioting in North Belfast on Thursday night.

Blast and petrol bombs were thrown during the violence in the nationalist district of Ardoyne.

Police used a water cannon and fired 48 plastic bullets after nationalist protesters broke through security force lines separating a passing Orange Order parade from the local residents who opposed part of its route.

One officer was seriously injured and two others were set alight by petrol bombs.

When the police withdrew from the group of approximately 200 protestors, a gang of youths attacked a petrol station, throwing petrol bombs and burning out the inside of the garage.

The Fire Brigade were called but could only respond after being guaranteed safe entry by a Sinn Fein assembly member.

The RUC estimate that around 263 petrol bombs were thrown during the riots which continued late into the night. Chief constable Sir Ronnie Flannigan said that he is to investigate the possibility that the IRA may have been behind the violence.

Earlier in the evening, police moved into Belfast city centre to break up clashes between rival Protestant bands returning from the traditional 12th July parades.

Seven people were injured when fighting broke out between bandsmen and bystanders in Shaftesbury Square.

Elsewhere nationalists and loyalists clashed in the Short Strand/Lower Newtownards Road area of east Belfast.

Earlier police and soldiers were attacked with petrol bombs in Lurgan after an army patrol discovered a blast bomb.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, security forces used water cannon against loyalists after being attacked with a blast bomb at a bonfire in Portadown. (CD)

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