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Rival gangs clash at Belfast police station

By Lisa Smyth

A crowd of up to 200 loyalists and republicans clashed when tensions surrounding a Sinn Fein rally to celebrate the closure of an east Belfast police station erupted into violence.

Police fired plastic baton rounds as tension which had been building between the gangs exploded last night — with claims a girl, believed to be 12-years-old, sustained facial injuries and children as young as nine were involved in attacking PSNI Land R overs.

Last night a PSNI spokesman said it was too early to discuss any specific details regarding the violence, but he confirmed plastic baton rounds had been fired following the rally at Mountpottinger Police Station.

There were reports of missiles, including bricks, paving stones and golf balls, thrown between the two groups at Castlereagh Street and Mountpottinger, as well as at police officers trying to quell the violence.

It is understood police fired the plastic baton rounds after they came under sustained attack. A PSNI helicopter hovered overhead ordering people to leave the scene or force would be used.

At one stage, it was claimed up to 500 loyalists were at the scene, although many were only watching the unrest.

Shortly before 9.30pm, the Albertbridge Road was closed to traffic as a result of the disorder.

Jim Rodgers, Belfast city councillor, said he was disappointed by the violence and called on everyone to move on from Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

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