Northern Ireland

Sectarian trouble flares at east Belfast's Short Strand

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Media captionThe BBC's Mark Simpson on the events in east Belfast

Homes in east Belfast's Short Strand area have been attacked by a large group of masked men, Sinn Fein has said.

Crowds were still at an interface on the lower Newtownards Road and Bryson Street in the early hours of Tuesday.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Niall O Donnghaile, a Sinn Fein councillor for the area, was at the scene.

He told the BBC that 60-100 masked men fully dressed in camouflage gear have been attacking homes.

The attacks were carried out at the Mountpottinger Road as well as the lower Newtownards Road, Mr O Donnghaile said.

Police are at the scene and community and youth workers have been trying to defuse the situation.

'Residents injured'

"It's a tense and dangerous situation," Mr O Donnghaile said.

"They've hit homes with paint bombs, pipe bombs and petrol bombs.

"A pipe bomb-type device has gone off. There's a number of Short Strand residents who are injured and a number of homes have been damaged."

Police have confirmed that a large number of people had gathered in Bryson Street and that petrol bombs have been thrown.

Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland said several hundred people "were involved in hand-to-hand fighting".

"You have two sides to these stories. My understanding is that homes on the Newtownards Road have been attacked from Strand Walk and the grounds of St Matthew's in the last couple of nights," he said.

"It really doesn't really matter who is responsible at this stage. It's getting it stopped that is the problem."