20+ cops hurt in Northern Ireland riots

2011-07-12 11:23

Belfast - Twenty-two police officers were injured when Irish nationalists rioted in Northern Ireland overnight, burning cars and firing petrol bombs as part of annual protests by pro-British Protestants planned for Tuesday.

Police fired plastic bullets and used water cannon to control crowds of up to 200 people in Roman Catholic areas of West Belfast, a police spokesperson said.

Rioters hijacked a bus during the disturbances and burnt a van and motorcycle.

Tens of thousands of Protestants were due to take part in marches on Tuesday to mark the 1690 victory of King William of Orange over Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne, which helped ensure Protestant supremacy in Ireland.

Many Catholics regard the marches as provocative, and violent protests often erupt as they pass Catholic suburbs.

Bus driver dragged into road

Three decades of fighting between mostly Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and Irish nationalists, mainly Catholics, who want it to be part of a united Ireland tore the province apart during the period known as the "Troubles".

A 1998 peace agreement paved the way for a power-sharing government of loyalists and nationalists.

Violence has subsided over the years, but small dissident armed groups are still active in the province.

The clashes erupted overnight as Protestant groups lit hundreds of bonfires across the province to mark the July 12 holiday.

A bus was hijacked, the driver dragged into the road and the passengers ordered off before it was crashed while being driven towards police near Belfast's mainly Catholic Falls Road.

Police said no officers were seriously injured in the overnight clashes.

In North Belfast, a bomb alert, which eventually proved to be a hoax, forced the evacuation of a number of homes for several hours.

Read more on:    northern ireland
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