Police fire 27 baton rounds as mob violence flares in east Belfast

Sectarian violence in east Belfast reached a new low yesterday, with police officers firing 27 baton rounds in an attempt to control mobs during rioting which lasted for over six hours.

Last night's violence saw security forces come under sustained attack by masked gangs and nine officers were injured. None were thought to have been injured seriously.

On Tuesday night, six police officers were injured and two baton rounds were fired.

The first attacks occurred at around 9pm last night when masked gangs threw a variety of missiles, including petrol bombs, blast bombs and bricks and bottles. Soon after the first disturbances, the situation became so serious that an ambulance depot on Templemore Avenue was closed and cars were being diverted away from the Short Strand, Albertbridge Road, Templemore Avenue and Lower Newtownards Road.

A spokesman for the ambulance service Terry Gorman said: "The worst case scenario is a patient loses their life because they can't get an ambulance quick enough. Why can't they get an ambulance quick enough – because we had to close an ambulance station and move it to another location.

"Patients could suffer very severely," he added.

Armed men also attempted to hijack a bus on the Templemore Avenue.

Police report that their vehicles were attacked and at least two were damaged by gunfire and a blast bomb amid a continuous barrage of petrol bombs.

Police report that crowds dispersed at around 3am this morning.

In north Belfast, Army Technical Officers (ATOs) were called out to deal with three suspicious objects in Glenbryn Park. All were declared hoaxes and the remains of an exploded pipe bomb were recovered from the scene.

In the nearby Alliance Avenue, police were investigating reports from residents that shots had been fired.

Acting Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn said that police resources were being "stretched to the limit" by the continued sectarian violence and that the situation was becoming critical. He is to meet with the Policing Board today.

The Liberal Democrats' Northern Ireland spokesman Lembit Opik condemned the violence, saying: "There can be no justification for the continual level of violence we have seen in Belfast in the last few months.

"Tensions have been increasing in interface areas and I fear it is only a matter of time before there is another tragic and unnecessary death on the streets of Belfast. I urge local community leaders to continue to do all they can to ensure the violence is brought to an end."


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

16 March 2020
Belfast City Marathon Postponed
Organisers of the Belfast City Marathon have took the decision to postpone the race and following half marathon fixture in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The marathon, originally due to take place on Sunday 03 May, will now be held on Sunday 20 September 2020.
12 March 2020
Eastern Airways Saves Belfast-Southampton Route
Flights from Belfast City Airport to Southampton have been saved by Eastern Airways. The airline stepped in to fulfil the busy route after announcing on Monday that it was creating a six-times weekly Belfast to Teeside International Airport flight. The daily Southampton flights are now available for booking and will begin on Monday 23 March.
19 March 2020
Woman Left Frightened After West Belfast Burglary
A woman has been left shaken after she was forced to the ground and threatened by three males who had forced entry to her home. Police have launched an investigation following the aggravated burglary in west Belfast on Wednesday evening, 18 March.
18 March 2020
Leisure Facilities Closed Across Belfast
Leisure centres and community facilities across Belfast have been closed as measures to combat the spread of coronavirus are ramped up. St George's Market, the Ulster Hall and the ICC Belfast are among those affected. City Hall has closed to the public with tours suspended and the visitor exhibition also closed.
04 September 2001
Spate of violence erupts in North Belfast
Overnight disturbances in Belfast resulted in 21 police officers being injured, bringing the number of officer injured on Monday to 35. Police said the officers were injured on Monday as sporadic street violence erupted throughout North Belfast.