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Twelfth 2015: The moment a policeman's ear is severed by masonry during Belfast riot

By Claire Cromie

This is the moment a senior police officer had his ear severed during last night's riot in north Belfast.

The inspector was one of 24 PSNI officers injured when violence erupted at the sectarian interface on Woodvale Road.

He was due to undergo surgery today to reattach his ear - which can be seen hanging off in this horrific picture as his colleagues pull him to safety.

He was hit with a lump of masonry as rioters threw missiles at police lines.

The violence kicked off when police stopped the return leg of the Twelfth of July parade.

The parade was barred from marching along a stretch of the Crumlin Road which separates unionist and nationalist communities - the third year in a row the Parades Commission has refused permission for the return route.

Police fired five plastic bullets and four are believed to have struck people. A water cannon was used to try and control the crowds.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, ACC Stephen Martin said another officer almost had his finger bitten off, but was luckily wearing motorcycle gloves. The officer needed 12 stitches.

Seven men and two women were arrested during the trouble.

One man is being questioned on suspicion of attempted murder after a teenage girl was struck and became trapped underneath a car amid the chaos.

Police officers had to lift the vehicle onto its side to free the teenager, who is believed to be undergoing surgery today for a shattered pelvis.

Another woman and police officers were also hit by the vehicle in an area tightly packed with nationalist demonstrators.

ACC Martin said: "I would want to pay tribute to the officers who were under my leadership yesterday. They did a professional and brave job.

"At one stage they were in the middle of three opposing factions. They did their duty with courage and professionalism and the humanity of policing was shown very strongly when ... they manhandled that car up on its end so that that young girl could be rescued."

He said another woman hurt in the collision suffered a suspected fractured wrist.

"We had hoped for more effective marshalling of the parades yesterday. There was marshalling that occurred last year in north Belfast that did not occur this year in north Belfast, that is regrettable."

ACC Martin said the violence was not orchestrated by paramilitaries and blamed young people exploiting the tense situation.

He noted efforts by loyalist and republican community leaders to defuse tensions.

Police are gathering evidence about the wider rioting as well as breaches of determinations designed to govern Orange Order marches, both allegedly while demonstrators paraded close to Catholic churches in north and east Belfast.

Further reading:

New loyalist terror group issues death threat to PSNI and Parades Commission as 'legitimate targets'

Twelfth 2015: DUP leaders condemn north Belfast rioters  

Twelfth 2015: Man arrested over attempted murder after girl hit by car at Ardoyne riot

Twelfth violence: Petrol bombs thrown at police in Derry as Orangemen are attacked by youths  

Twelfth 2015: Clean-up operation in north Belfast after disorder

The inevitable violence at Ardoyne: stop blaming others and sort it out

Twelfth 2015: Smiles and aching feet as 100,000 defy rain

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