Bricks and Bottles Fly in Second Night of Belfast Rioting

June 22, 2011 - 6:06 AM

Britain Northern Ireland Riot

Martin Ferguson looks out from his home following sectarian gang riots in the Nationalist Short Strand area of East Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June, 21, 2011. Ferguson's home was attacked late Monday by a loyalist protestant gang during rioting between Catholic and Protestant's, and police said up to 500 people were involved in the violence, with shots fired from both sides. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) - A British news photographer was shot in the leg as hundreds of masked youths hurled bricks, bottles and gasoline bombs during a second night of sectarian violence at a Catholic-Protestant flashpoint in Belfast.

The Press Association agency said Wednesday that the photographer suffered a leg injury and was in stable condition at Royal Victoria Hospital. The agency did not release the name of the photographer.

Other journalists on the scene said a gunman had shot at photographers covering Tuesday's night's violence.

About 700 people gathered on the street in the Short Strand, a small Catholic community in a predominantly Protestant area of east Belfast.

Masked and hooded youths threw bricks, bottles, fireworks and other missiles at each other, and at armored police vehicles. Police fired plastic bullets at the marauding youths.

Sectarian tensions typically flare in the build-up to July 12, a divisive holiday when tens of thousands of Protestants from the Orange Order brotherhood march across Northern Ireland.

This year's violence is among the most intense in years, but confined to a small and historically tense area of Belfast.

Police said the violence started Monday when masked members of the Ulster Volunteer Force -- a paramilitary Protestant group which claims to have disarmed -- attacked Catholic homes with bricks, fireworks and smoke bombs.

Catholic leaders said the violence was unprovoked, but Protestant leaders said the mob appeared to be retaliating for smaller-scale attacks by Short Strand youths on Protestant homes.

The area affected by the rioting is one of more than 30 parts of Belfast where high barricades separate Irish Catholic and British Protestant turf. The barricades, called "peace lines" locally, have grown in number and size, despite the success of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.

Northern Ireland's Protestant First Minister, Peter Robinson, and his Catholic deputy, Martin McGuinness, condemned the violence.

"A small minority of individuals are clearly determined to destabilize our communities," McGuinness said. "They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past."