Northern Ireland riots: Bus hijacked and set on fire in Belfast
A bus has been hijacked and set on fire in Belfast as violence esaclated on the sixth consecutive night of unrest on the streets of Northern Ireland.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned by the scenes” after the double-decker bus pelted with petrol bombs in the west of the city.
The attack was one of the several incidents on Wednesday evening on the peace line street that links the loyalist Shankill Road with the nationalist Springfield Road.
Stones were thrown at officers and a press photographer was assaulted as crowds gathered in the area, while petrol bombs were thrown from both sides of the peace line’s dividing wall.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.
“The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality.”
The violence followed five previous nights of unrest in loyalist communities amid tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit and the Police Service of Nothern Ireland’s handling of alleged coronavirus regulation breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.
Police drug seizures from the Ulster Defence Association loyalist paramilitary group have also been linked to the recent unrest.
First minister Arlene Foster said: “There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop.”
SDLP MP Claire Hanna also criticised the violence, tweeting: “We’re told by the apologists that these protests & riots are borne of frustration about not being listened to, but an excellent photo journalist is attacked while trying to capture the story.”
The photographer assaulted was Kevin Scott from the Belfast Telegraph, whose camera was badly damaged as a result. He said on Twitter that he was “jumped from behind” by two men, but has since gone back out to capture the scenes unfolding.
Police advised members of the public to avoid the area. “We would appeal to those with influence in the area to use it to help restore calm,” a PSNI statement said.
The force added it had closed the interface gates after they were set ablaze, along with tyres and bins at Lanark Way.
PSNI told local newspaper Belfast Live that officers are in place and will “monitor the situation”.
One woman who lives in the area, Stacey Graham, tweeted that she was “on the ground tonight”, and encouraged parents to take their children away from Lanark Way.
“I can’t emphasise enough please do not fall into the trap. We need peaceful demonstrations,” she wrote, before adding: “Parents please know where your kids are. My heart is sore for my community. THIS IS NOT THE WAY.”
Videos circulating on social media show a bus being pelted with petrol bombs and having its windows smashed where a crowd of people had gathered.
Translink Metro subsequently said it had withdrawn all services into the area until further notice due to road closures.
The Stormont Assembly is scheduled to be recalled on Thursday morning for an emergency debate following several consecutive nights of riots and attacks on police.
The violence has mostly cropped up in loyalist areas, with some of the worst scenes on Monday being seen in Ballymena when nine riot police officers were injured after they intervened in an unlawful march of loyalists through the town.
During the unrest, debris, including a wheelie bin, was thrown onto the M2 motorway, forcing its closure.
Disorder also broke out in parts of Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Londonderry on Monday, with petrol bombs and other missiles thrown at officers.
Children as young as 12 have been involved in some of the violence that has been witnessed in recent days.
Earlier on Wednesday, DUP MP Gregory Campbell urged loyalist protesters to “use their heads”’ and step away from situations which may descend into disorder.
“If people use their heads and they think ahead and say ‘we’re not going to give people the opportunity to say a chief constable can’t stand down because of the threat of violence’,” Mr Campbell told the BBC. “That is something that would have a resonance across the community. Don’t give them that excuse.”
He added: “They should think long and hard before taking part in any protests that could eventually result in violence and serious hurt being done to individuals as well as to the wider community they live in.”
The riots have so far seen 41 police officers injured and 10 protestors arrested as a result. The DUP is calling for the resignation of police chief Simon Byrne over the lack of prosecutions.
Additional reporting by PA
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