UVF blamed after rioting in Belfast
A major riot which saw police come under gun attack by loyalists in Northern Ireland is being blamed on the Ulster Volunteer Force, despite the paramilitary group being on ceasefire.
Political leaders appealed for calm after 500 people were involved in the disturbances in east Belfast on Monday night that saw hand-to-hand fighting, plus the use of petrol bombs and blast bombs.
Police said there were gunshots from the republican Short Strand area, while loyalists also opened fire, but masked UVF members were blamed for starting the violence by attacking homes in the Catholic enclave.
Two men on the loyalist side of the divide suffered gunshot wounds to the leg, officers confirmed.
But two bullet marks on a police vehicle were blamed on the UVF and are being treated as an attempt to murder officers.
Chief Superintendent Alan McCrum said: "We believe at this point that members of the east Belfast UVF were involved. It would be a line of investigation to establish whether that was a co-ordinated and organised 'organisational' position (by the UVF central leadership).
"But at this point we are satisfied that at the very least members of east Belfast UVF were involved in organising the disorder."
Sinn Fein said scores of masked men in camouflage clothing and wearing surgical gloves were at the centre of co-ordinated attacks on the republican Short Strand area that ignited a five-hour riot. Homes were damaged and there were a number of injuries, with witnesses claiming it was lucky no one was killed.
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned the riot, as well as a separate bomb attack aimed at police in west Belfast.
Mr Robinson said: "At this time when many are working hard to build a better and brighter future for all in Northern Ireland, it is disappointing and deeply concerning to see this level of violence return to our streets."