A teenage girl is facing reconstructive surgery after she was knocked unconcious in the early hours with a brick in what police suspect is a sectarian attack in west Belfast.
Shannon Smyth, aged just 13, was rushed to hospital but lost several front teeth and needed 14 stitches for a facial injury after being hit with the projectile in the early hours of Saturday.
The teenager was sitting with friends in a playpark in Moyard Park, just a few minutes away from her home off the Whiterock Road, shortly after midnight when they were attacked by a group of youths.
Her attackers threw stones and other missiles at Shannon and her pals.
The traumatised teenager will now need extensive dental work and reconstruction of her mouth to repair the damage done by the brick-hurling gang and she and her family were last night staying with relatives.
The PSNI have said that they are investigating a possible sectarian motive.
A spokesman said: “A sectarian motive is one line of inquiry.”
Shannon's mother Anne-Marie Smyth said she also believes the attack was sectarian but added that she is “simply relieved” her daughter survived the attack.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Janice Austin has condemned the brutal attack and urged parents from all sections of the community to keep an eye on their children.
“There have been sporadic interface violence issues in the Moyard area in the past but in recent times it has been relatively quiet,” she said.
“There has been nothing serious like this, an attack on a young girl and never in a place like a children’s play park,”
“I utterly condemn this and what has happened to this girl but what I would say is that coming into the summer months especially, when tensions normally run higher, that all parents, from whatever area or whatever community they are from, remain vigilant and keep an eye on their children and know where they are at all times.
“People from the area are shocked that this has happened but we would appeal for calm.”