Belfast Telegraph

Horror as youth (16) dies in fierce rioting

By Claire Regan

BOTH sides of north Belfast's bitterly divided community were reeling today after the death of a teenager during another episode of fierce rioting.

BOTH sides of north Belfast's bitterly divided community were reeling today after the death of a teenager during another episode of fierce rioting.

Glen Hugh Branagh (16), from Mountcollyer Avenue, died after a crude bomb exploded. According to the PSNI, the device was in his hand as he prepared to throw it at police during rioting in the area yesterday.

A police spokesman said the youth, who is believed to be from the loyalist Tigers Bay area, was seen emerging from a crowd of loyalist rioters raising a "fizzing object" in his hand.

Police took cover but the device exploded causing serious injuries to his head, arm and hand.

Officers were then called forward to give first aid to the injured youth. He was found lying on the ground and a distinctive mask which he had been wearing had been removed.

He was rushed to hospital but died a short time later.

Branagh had been due to celebrate his 17th birthday on Friday.

The spokesman said: "At the time the device was detonated the nationalist crowd had been moved back a considerable distance.

"A number of police officers, who were less than 15 metres away, witnessed the incident.

"From eyewitness accounts and inquiries we have made so far, we are satisfied that this device was not thrown by the nationalist side."

The trouble, just the latest wave to grip the strife-torn area in recent months, erupted yesterday when loyalists and republicans clashed after a Remembrance Day Service in Tigers Bay.

Police officers in riot gear moved into the area when sectarian clashes broke out between rival mobs in Duncairn Gardens and North Queen Street.

Trouble later spilled over on to the nearby Limestone Road.

Two men were injured in the explosion while 24 police officers and two soldiers were hurt during the riots.

Police confirmed that nine plastic baton rounds had been fired by security forces during the clashes.

An 11-year-old boy was treated in hospital for a leg injury after he was struck by a plastic bullet in North Queen Street at around 7pm.

A fifteen-year-old girl was also taken to hospital after she was injured.

Fifteen police vehicles were damaged and two cars burnt out while more than 50 petrol bombs were hurled by rival mobs.

The violence had subsided by last night but the area was described by police as "quiet but tense".

The teenager's tragic death has sparked another round of blame and counter blame with both sides condemning each other for starting the trouble.

Protestant community worker Eddie McClean claimed the trouble started when nationalists disrupted a Remembrance Service in North Queen Street.

He also vehemently denied that the teenager was preparing to throw the bomb when it exploded.

"The blast bomb was thrown over from the republican side. He picked it up to throw it away when it exploded. The police are very quick to make assumptions," he said.

But Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, denied the pipe bomb that killed the teenager had been thrown by republicans.

"I can tell you with absolute certainty it was not thrown from the nationalist side. The bomb was at the loyalist end."

Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy described the teenager's death as an appalling waste.

"Once again it shows that sectarian violence brings nothing but pain and grief to communities that have suffered far too much already."

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds added: "I have been saying that a life could be lost in the rioting and this has now occurred. Clearly there will have to be a full investigation into the circumstances as to exactly what happened."

NORTH BELFAST TOLL OF TROUBLE - one teenager killed - 24 police officers and two soldiers injured - three civilians injured, including 11-year-old boy - nine plastic baton rounds fired by security forces - 15 police vehicles damaged - two cars burned out - 50 petrol bombs thrown - other missiles hurled at police and between rival factions, including paint bombs

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