Northern Ireland

West Belfast rioting orchestrated say police

Police have said the rioting in west Belfast in which six police officers were injured was orchestrated.

Officers were attacked after a large crowd gathered at the Broadway roundabout at 2030 BST on Saturday.

Stones, fireworks, paint and petrol bombs were thrown and a number of Land Rovers were attacked by men using sign posts, masonry and in one case an axe.

Several officers were hit with missiles while one was hit with an iron bar. Police fired baton rounds in response.

Nine police Land Rovers were damaged.

"The violence that we saw last night was orchestrated," Chief Inspector Emma Mooney said.

She said a police search before the main trouble started found a stash of heavy masonry, empty bottles with rags, paint and other items such as golf clubs and heavy iron bars.

She said she "firmly believed" these were to be used against police officers.

"We very much believe that that preparation obviously shows a degree of orchestration, but as to who is actually behind it we haven't as yet been able to determine that," she said.

Gas cylinders

A number of gas cylinders were also thrown into the road during the trouble and a car was set alight during the disturbances.

Police closed the Stockman's Lane off-slip and the Westlink at Clifton Street at about 2340 BST due to the danger of thrown items landing on the carriageway or striking passing vehicles.

A local fast food restaurant was also broken into by the rioters and significant damage was caused. Two tills from the premises were later recovered.

The trouble, which at its height involved about 100 people and spread to the Bog Meadows area, stopped at about 0300 BST.

Police said a number of the rioters may have come from outside the area and they are appealing for the public's help in identifying all those involved.

The Police Ombudsman has been informed about the use of the baton rounds by police.

On Friday night, four police Land Rovers were damaged in the area during a riot involving up to 100 people.

Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker blamed republicans for Saturday night's trouble.

"Speaking to representatives from the nationalist community, it seems that a lot of people who would be associated with the dissident republican movement came across from the upper Donegall Road/St James area to attack young people in the Donegall Road area here.

"The police arrived a short time after to separate the crowds - that's when the rioting really kicked off," he said.

Sinn Fein's Briege Brownlee said: "Last night some people in the area claimed they were down protecting the community basically against what they saw as a loyalist threat.

"Unfortunately this culminated then in criminal behaviour, which resulted in Kentucky Fried Chicken being damaged, cars being burnt and residents being abused.

"So what might have started off with noble intent ended up basically criminals gathering here from Divis, Ballymurphy and different places."

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