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Officer's ear nearly severed in a night of frenzied violence in Ardoyne

By Deborah McAleese

A senior PSNI officer has undergone surgery to reattach his ear after it was almost severed during violence in north Belfast.

Another officer had to receive several stitches on his hand after a rioter attempted to bite his finger off on Monday night.

Only for the fact he was wearing a motorcycle glove he would have lost his finger, police said yesterday.

Another officer who rescued a teenage girl trapped under a car in the middle of rioting in the area was hit in the face by a bottle and lost a tooth. Others were hurt when they were also hit by the car.

A total of 25 officers were injured across Belfast on Monday - 20 of them in the north of the city. Other injuries sustained by police included a suspected fractured skull and concussion.

The man whose ear was almost completely ripped off is a PSNI inspector based in the north of the city. He was standing at Twaddell Avenue directing the policing operation on the ground when he was hit by masonry thrown by loyalist rioters.

As he fell to the ground he was quickly dragged to safety by a number of his colleagues.

He received emergency first aid at the scene.

Despite the seriousness of his injury he remained in the area for some time to assist his colleagues during the disturbances.

Five plastic baton rounds were fired by police during the violence at Twaddell Avenue, hitting four people. Two water cannon were deployed to push crowds back.

A teenage girl who was dragged underneath a car being driven by a senior Orangeman close to the Ardoyne shops during the disturbances underwent surgery yesterday for a suspected broken pelvis.

A number of officers lifted the car onto its side to rescue the 16-year-old.

Two other women and a number of police officers were injured by the car. The 61-year-old driver has been charged with two counts of attempted murder.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin yesterday praised police officers for their professionalism and bravery during the trouble.

"At one stage they were in the middle of three opposing factions at Woodvale, Twaddell and Ardoyne.

"They did their duty with courage and with professionalism," he said.

The police officer whose ear was almost severed in the violence that flared on Monday night
The police officer whose ear was almost severed in the violence that flared on Monday night
Collegaues dragging him to safety
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin

The senior officer said the violence had not been orchestrated by paramilitaries. He blamed young people exploiting the tense situation.

He said it was "regrettable" that there had not been any effective marshalling of the parades on Monday, but noted efforts by loyalist and republican community leaders, including Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly, to defuse tensions after the trouble erupted.

Detectives are now investigating footage gathered during the disturbances to identify those involved.

"We will be reviewing images and our own evidence gathering operation and people who were engaged in that disorder can expect the police to come looking for them and to bring them before the criminal justice system in the days that lie ahead," Mr Martin warned.

Reported breaches of Parades Commission determinations and protest breaches are also under investigation. Monday night's policing operation was one of the biggest seen in recent years in north Belfast.

Chairman of the Police Federation Mark Lindsay said officers had borne the brunt of frenzied attacks.

He said: "It really is very hard to imagine what goes through the minds of people as they launch vicious attacks on officers who are upholding a lawful determination, or who try to bite off the finger of an officer."

At least nine people have been arrested so far in connection with the disorder on Monday.

A man and a woman, both aged 22, are due in court today charged with a number of offences including grievous bodily harm, assault on police, threats to kill and disorderly behaviour.

The charges relate to an alleged attack on police in Belfast city centre on Monday.

A further two men were arrested last night in the Twaddell Avenue area.

One was held for suspected motoring offences while the other was detained over alleged provocative behaviour.

There were reports of minor trouble in the nationalist Garvaghy area in Portadown late last night with youths lighting fires in the road disrupting traffic.

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