29/08/2002

Soldiers injured in east Belfast street violence

Security forces in east Belfast came under renewed attack from rioters last night, resulting in injuries to 16 soldiers.

Police reported isolated incidents of stone-throwing in the Cluan Place, Mountpottinger and Clandeboye Drive area at around 8pm last night. However, this later developed into running clashes in the Albertbridge Road and Short Strand area with security forces at about 10pm.

Security forces came under fire from a variety of missiles including petrol bombs, fireworks, stones and bottles. The disturbances continued until the early hours of this morning, during the course of which 17 plastic bullets were fired by the army.

At around 1am British Army Technical Officers (ATOs) defused a pipe-bomb found in the garden of a house in Cluan Place. They also recovered the remains of another pipe-bomb in the area.

First Minister David Trimble, who held talks with Acting Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn on Wednesday, toured the interface yesterday evening – only a couple of hours before the disturbances took place.

Last night, he said: "After so long, the police still haven't got on top of the situation. I would like to know why we don't have CCTV here yet. CCTV was deployed with considerable success in policing terms at Drumcree."

Today, UUP minister Sir Reg Empey said that Sinn Fein has been "play-acting" and he accused them of "generating the bulk for the violence" in east Belfast. He also reiterated the need for CCTV cameras to be sited in the flashpoint area.

"We need to have some stability in there. We need CCTV cameras in there as they would bring an end to the blame game. If nobody has anything to hide, then we have nothing to lose," he said.

He added: "The vast majority of people in the area can and want to live together. But we need to be absolutely certain that there is a genuine determination to solve this."

Sinn Fein councillor Joe O'Donnell called for talks between the communities but went on to accuse loyalism of destroying east Belfast by driving out businesses.

"I want to enter into dialogue with anyone who has any influence to bring an end to this violence. I will meet anyone to end this violence and I hope that Sir Reg Empey and his party colleagues will do so too," he said.

On Tuesday night, Security Minister Jane Kennedy visited east Belfast, and afterwards pledged to "return to east Belfast soon to meet local community representatives from both communities".

She paid tribute to the police, adding: "A whole-hearted commitment to peace, compromise and leadership is essential if the misery of life on the interfaces is to be brought to an end.”

(GMcG)

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