Belfast endures worst sectarian violence in a decade | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 22.06.2011
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Belfast endures worst sectarian violence in a decade

Northern Ireland has suffered a second night of clashes between Protestant and Catholics in the worst sectarian violence in 10 years. Police were pelted with petrol bombs and fireworks and several were injured.

Loyalist rioters attack police in East Belfast

Politicians say the violence is the worst in a decade

Several hundred people were involved in the second consecutive night of riots between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

Police were pelted with petrol bombs and fireworks in what politicians have described as the worst violence in the city in a decade.

A press photographer was shot in the leg and two others were injured when around 700 people gathered for a second night of sectarian violence in the Newtownards area of Belfast.

The photographer, who was working for Britain's Press Association news agency, was taken to hospital but is said to be in a stable condition.

Police responded by firing stun grenades for a second night in a row and, in an unusual move, urged all journalists to stay out of the area "for their own safety."

Worst in decades

Loyalist rioters throw petrol bombs towards the mainly Catholic Short Strand area of East Belfast

Loyalist rioters initated attacks on Monday

The unrest comes a night after two men suffered gunshot wounds in riots which lasted several hours.

Violence is believed to have broken out on Monday night after pro-British protestant gangs attacked Catholic homes in the Short Strand area of Belfast. Gunshots were subsequently fired on both sides as 500 people, mostly youths, clashed.

"I cannot remember in the last decade a situation like this in the Short Strand," Colm McKevitt, a member of the regional parliament for the Irish nationalist SDLP party, told Irish state broadcaster RTE.

"It does not augur well for the city at the outset of the marching season after a few relatively good few years," he added.

Long-standing hostility

In the past, violent protests have plagued Northern Ireland's marching season, a time of annual protestant parades which mainly commemorate historical British events.

Protestants claim the marches are an expression of cultural identity, but Catholics assert they are provocative.

Years of violent "troubles" in Northern Ireland have centered around disputes between mostly Protestant loyalists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom and mostly Catholic republicans who want to form a united Ireland.

Violence had mostly subsided after a peace deal was agreed in 1998, although dissident groups remain.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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