Fresh protests break out in Northern Ireland after night of violence

Saturday, January 5, 2013 - 2:38pm

Fresh pro-British protests erupted Saturday in the Northern Ireland city of Belfast, police said, hours after nine officers were injured in rioting.

Tensions have been high since city council members there voted a month ago to stop flying the Union flag year-round, restricting it instead to certain days.

Officers have come under sustained attack in east Belfast from more than 100 people, some throwing fireworks and bricks, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said Saturday. Two men have been arrested.

Authorities were also investigating reports that a number of shots have been fired at police lines.

More than 30 petrol bombs were thrown at officers during serious disorder in the same part of the city Friday night. They also were pelted with ball bearings, fireworks and masonry, police said. Eight officers were hurt.

Another officer was hurt Friday in the Newtownabbey area, police said, where bottles and bricks were thrown at police in the course of a protest lasting several hours.

Nineteen arrests were made in connection with the disorder. On Saturday, charges were brought against seven men and two women who had been arrested for a number of offenses.

Saturday's violence was again focused on east Belfast, police said.

A lunchtime demonstration outside City Hall appeared to pass without trouble.

Northern Ireland's political leaders have called for an end to the pro-British protests, which were prompted by the vote on the Union flag.

The disorder follows a summer of heightened tensions between Northern Ireland's Catholic and Protestant communities. Riots in September left dozens of police officers injured.

The recent violence follows more than a decade during which Northern Ireland has made steady progress toward lasting peace and stability.

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