Northern Ireland

Union flag protests: Nine police officers hurt in fresh flag trouble

A petrol bomb was thrown at a PSNI vehicle on Castlereagh Street at about 19:40 GMT Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption A petrol bomb was thrown at a PSNI vehicle on Castlereagh Street at about 19:40 GMT

Nine police officers have been injured and 18 people have been arrested during fresh violence at union flag protests in east Belfast and Newtownabbey.

Police said more than 30 petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown as police dealt with serious public disorder in east Belfast.

In Newtownabbey, police were attacked by a crowd throwing bricks and bottles.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson said violence against the police was a "disgrace".

He said those behind the recent unrest were playing into the hands of dissident republicans.

Trouble broke out on Friday in Castlereagh Street and Templemore Avenue, east Belfast, close to where 10 officers were injured in rioting on Thursday night.

A PSNI spokesman said officers had come under "sustained attack" from crowds of up to 300 people using fireworks, bricks and petrol bombs.

Eight officers were injured, including a female officer who required medical treatment in an ambulance at the scene.

Protest

It was reported that three attempts were made to hijack vehicles in nearby Beersbridge Road. A water canon was deployed but not used.

Police said 14 arrests took place during the disorder.

An officer was also injured during a protest in O'Neill Road in Newtownabbey, a town north of Belfast.

Police were attacked with bricks and bottles.

An attempt was made to hijack a bus in the area and commercial premises on O'Neill Road were broken into by several masked men who damaged the property and stole a sum of money.

One person was arrested.

Earlier, in Dundonald, police cleared a protest close to the Ulster Hospital. Three people were arrested.

A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.

Some of the protests have resulted in violence.

To date, more than 40 police officers have been hurt, several politicians have received death threats and homes and property have been damaged.

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