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Belfast clashes injure 56 officers, police say

Police have announced that clashes between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast sent more than 50 officers to the hospital and resulted in seven arrests. More arrests are likely as police review footage of the scene.

Northern Ireland's police chief, Matt Baggott, said on Saturday that the rioting by Protestant demonstrators was "mindless anarchy." On Friday, as a parade of Catholic republicans made its way through Belfast, a group of Protestants tried to disrupt the parade and turned on police.

Fifty-six police officers were injured when the mob threw bricks, bottles and other projectiles. Four police had to be treated in the hospital.

On Friday night, seven arrests were made, and Baggott promised there would be more as video recordings of the scene are reviewed.

"You can be assured that many more (arrests) will follow," he said, adding that the prisons in Northern Ireland would soon be "bulging."

He lashed out at the Protestant rioters, saying: "Those people had no intention of peaceful protest. They lack self respect and they lack dignity."

Water cannon and plastic bullets were used to break up the rioters.

The divide between Protestants who see themselves aligned with Britain and Catholics who would prefer to see Irish independence dates back decades.

The parade on Friday was to mark the anniversary of a policy introduced by the British in 1971 that allowed internment without trial. Most of the roughly 2,000 people who were held under the law were Catholic republicans.

Riots are still relatively common, even though the worst of the violence of the Troubles ended with the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

mz/mkg (AP, AFP, dpa)