Belfast Telegraph

Police attacked and cars set alight by youths in Belfast

Police have been attacked and cars torched by masked youths apparently angered by the removal of wood from the site of a nationalist bonfire in Belfast.

The disturbances in the Markets area, close to the city centre, saw officers targeted with petrol bombs, bricks and bottles while a number of cars were totally destroyed.

The incidents have centred in the Stewart Street and Friendly Street areas of the predominantly nationalist neighbourhood.

While a number of cars were burned out, the windows of other were smashed, with paint also thrown over them.

Police Service of Northern Ireland superintendent Andrea McMullan said the "localised" disorder was the fault of a "small group of youths".

"We are working with local representatives and members of the community to address the situation," she said.

"There has been some stone-throwing, damage to parked cars and a number of petrol bombs have also been thrown.

"Local residents of the Markets do not want this kind of activity on their doorsteps and we would urge those engaged in violence and criminal damage to stop - and go home."

The vandalism unfolded after wood from a bonfire site was removed from the area in a Belfast City Council operation on Monday morning.

Tensions have been raised in some loyalist and nationalist areas in Belfast this summer amid efforts by the council to take action against a number of unregulated fires.

Bonfires will be lit in some nationalist/republican areas later this week to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the controversial state policy of internment without trial.

A council spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that bonfire material was removed from a car park during an operation in the Markets area today."

The streets are adjacent to Belfast Central train station. A number of the cars are understood to belong to commuters.

The Sinn Fein councillor for the Markets area, Deirdre Hargey, said: "The damage to cars in Stewart Street is unacceptable and I condemn those responsible in the strongest possible way.

"Both commuters and residents have been affected. Cars have been smashed with stones and several have been set alight. It is nothing short of mindless vandalism."

Ms Hargey said there had been other incidents of vandalism over the weekend.

"There is no defending this behaviour at all and it needs to stop now," she said.

"I'm asking all parents to take responsibility for their children and know where they are at all times.

"The community does not want this type of behaviour and it's not representative of the people of this area."

The trouble later spread to other parts of Belfast.

In the Divis area at the Lower Falls Road, a derelict Credit Union building was set alight.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood condemned those responsible.

"Outrageous old credit union building torched in Divis - no place for mindless thugs destroying our community," he tweeted.

There have also been unconfirmed reports of attempts having been made to hijack vehicles in the area.

Democratic Unionist former minister Paul Givan tweeted: "Senseless acts of vandalism that endanger communities and damage services.

"Thinking of police and fire crews dealing with these incidents."

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