Sectarian violence flares in Belfast
A number of people were injured in sectarian clashes which broke out in the Northern Ireland capital of Belfast, the city's mayor said Tuesday.
Gangs of masked men attacked homes in Short Strand, a Catholic enclave in Protestant east Belfast, and hurled missiles at residents and police, said the mayor, who is also a councillor for the republican Sinn Fein party.
"It's a tense and dangerous situation," mayor Niall O Donnghaile said.
"They've hit homes with paint bombs, pipe bombs and petrol bombs.
"There's a number of Short Strand residents who are injured and a number of homes have been damaged," he added.
Television cameras captured the scenes of unrest as groups of hooded men in camouflage clothing pelted police vehicles with stones.
Ulster Unionist lawmaker Michael Copeland confirmed that several hundred people had been engaged "in hand-to-hand fighting.
"My understanding is that homes on the Newtownards Road have been attacked from Strand Walk," he added.
The masked men were believed to be Protestants who support British rule in the province.
O Donnghaile claimed the attacks were unprovoked, but Copeland claimed the violence was in response to attacks by Catholic republicans on Protestant properties over the last week.
"It really doesn't really matter who is responsible at this stage. It's getting it stopped that is the problem. You have two sides to these stories," Copeland said.
© 2011 AFP