Short Strand attacked again
Short Strand attacked again

There was serious rioting for a second night in east Belfast tonight as masked unionist paramilitaries renewed their attempts to attack the nationalist Short Strand enclave.

One press photographer was shot as several hundred loyalists associated with the paramilitary UVF clashed with the PSNI police and nationalist defenders close to the Newtownards Road.

A second night of violence had been predicted after masked UVF men succeeded in setting fire to a number of nationalist homes last night.

However, a serious situation saw a range of nationalists and republican groups join forces band together to successfully defend the isolated Short Strand community, amid hand-to-hand fighting in some areas.

The PSNI have said the UVF, who are supposed to be on a ceasefire, had orchestrated the violence, some of the most serious seen in the North for years.

The organisation is believed to be angered at threats to arrest senior members over past atrocities, as well as cuts to the so-called ‘peace funds’ which are channeled to their front organisations. Significantly, bullet marks on PSNI vehicles last night were blamed on the UVF.

The DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein’s deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned the riots, the worst seen in the city for years.

Mr McGuinness blamed the violence on a small minority of individuals who are determined to destabilise communities.

“They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past,”he said today. “I call on all those involved to take a step back and to remain calm. I support the efforts of community leaders on all sides who have been working on the ground to restore calm in east Belfast.”

However, the Short Strand, a a small Catholic community in the predominantly Protestant east Belfast area, was again targeted by the UVF tonight.

As loyalists gathered, the PSNI fired plastic bullets at both loyalists and nationalists, while Sinn Fein sought to keep nationalist youths as far as possible from the front lines.

A photographer for Press Association was forced to receive hospital treatment after he was struck by a bullet in the right leg at around midnight at the bottom of the Newtownards Road.

Earlier, nationalists suffered burn injuries from petrol bombs thrown over the line of 50 PSNI landrovers which blocked the interface.

One nationalist defender remains in a coma tonight with a fractured skull after he was struck by a concrete block last night.

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