Northern Ireland

Police say dissidents behind photographer shooting

Police have said they believe dissident republicans were responsible after a photographer was shot during violence in east Belfast on Tuesday.

It happened during a second night of trouble at a sectarian flashpoint on the Lower Newtownards Road.

Police said the trouble was orchestrated by the loyalist paramilitary group, the UVF.

NI First Minister Peter Robinson has offered to try and resolve the situation.

Police have told the BBC that detectives believed dissidents were responsible after a Press Association photographer suffered a gun shot wound to his leg.

He underwent surgery on Wednesday. Talks have been taking place throughout the day between community and political leaders in an attempt to defuse tensions.

Mr Robinson told the BBC that if people felt they need to have issues addressed "I will meet them".

He said people were horrified at what had happened and recognised the "reputational damage" it was doing to the economy.

The trouble erupted again at 2045 BST on Tuesday.

Injuries

A barrage of petrol bombs, missiles and fireworks were thrown at police lines for a second night, in what is being reported as the worst trouble in the area for a decade.

Two other men were injured. They are believed to have suffered burn injuries.

Police fired 66 plastic bullets during the disturbances.

A 20-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon and assaulting police.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said they believed the east Belfast Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) were involved.

"Whether they have lost the influence to stop it, I don't know, but there certainly seems to be nothing to suggest that our position has changed, that the bulk of this violence is coming from the loyalist community and the UVF in east Belfast does have a role to play in that," he said.

Just before midnight, a number of shots were fired and the photographer was injured.

Another photographer was standing with other media, near police landrovers on the Lower Newtownards Road when the shooting happened.

"I looked back and there was somebody peering over the wall and he shot about five or six rounds," he said.

"We were all just running.

Blood

"The next thing I know a colleague of mine, he yells, 'I've been shot, I've been shot', and I looked back and his leg on the bottom part, I don't know if he was grazed, or if the bullet went in or what, but I looked at his trousers and his trousers were all stained.

"It was wet, it was obviously blood."

Map showing the location of the trouble in east Belfast
Map showing the location of the trouble in east Belfast

The photographer said he had been in contact with his injured colleague.

"He's doing fine," he said.

"I just got a text from him. He's going into surgery this morning. The bullet went in and came out, so it is not life-threatening."

It was initially reported that 700 people were involved in the riots on Tuesday night but police have now said it was between 350 to 400.

The MP for the area, Naomi Long, told the BBC a man who was struck with a brick on Tuesday night had suffered a fractured skull.

'Step back'

She described the trouble as a "very serious situation" and said appeals from political representatives for calm had fallen on "deaf ears".

"People need to step back from this situation," she said.

"We have had another round of gunfire on Tuesday night, we have had someone else injured with a bullet wound.

"When you have guns back on streets, it is very clear that the intent here is to take life.

"There is no other reason why people would bring a gun onto the street, and I think that people need to take a step back and really think about what they are doing."

There was a large police presence, following Monday's sectarian clashes, and two water cannon vehicles were deployed.

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