Belfast Telegraph

Police officer slashed on face by youth cutting down loyalist banners

By CLAIRE GRAHAM

A police officer stabbed in the face at a loyalist protest camp was trying to arrest a teenager slashing down banners.

The officer was sliced across the face with a Stanley knife and taken to hospital.

He had been called out to the scene in north Belfast after police received a report of an assault.

The officer's injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

It's understood a youth armed with a blade began ripping down flags and banners at the Twaddell protest camp at around 2.45pm yesterday.

A passer-by disturbed the individual and a crowd from The Sportsman bar on the Crumlin Road emerged to usher the youth away.

As the suspect was about to be arrested, he knifed an officer, leaving a gash of around two-and-a-half inches.

A 16-year-old male was arrested for wounding with intent and possession of an offensive weapon.

It is the second time within a week that a teenager in north Belfast has put a police officer in hospital.

On Saturday, four youths aged between 13 and 17 were detained following the recovery of a stolen car. An officer was hurt during the arrest and needed hospital treatment for a shoulder injury.

Winston Irvine of the PUP told the Belfast Telegraph that he and his party will be demanding an urgent meeting with police regarding the escalation of knife crime around the camp.

"This is the second attack involving knives at the camp in less than a week. It's completely despicable this officer was attacked and slashed across his face," he said.

"We'll be demanding urgent talks to discuss the attacks and to up the police presence."

Gerald Solinas, of the west Belfast Ulster Political Research Group, said his thoughts were with the officer and his family.

"This is a very sad way to start the new year and I would call on all nationalist and republican groups to condemn the attack," he said.

"This began as an unprovoked sectarian attack and an officer was then slashed across his face."

Shortly after Christmas, loyalist camp banners were slashed in an overnight attack and police were urged to step up patrols.

The loyalist camp at Twaddell, set up days after a contentious Twelfth parade was blocked from passing Ardoyne, has been manned round-the-clock every day since.

Community representatives said there has been a surge of attacks on the camp in recent days.

Earlier in December, dissident republicans launched a gun attack on police close to the camp.

Around 15 shots were fired from AK-47 assault rifles less than 50ft away from where around 60 people – ranging from young children to pensioners – had gathered.

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