Horror as images capture the raw violence on streets of New Lodge
Two arrested over stabbings as contentious bonfire goes ahead
These are the shocking images from two of the stabbings close to the New Lodge anti-internment bonfire as violence spilled over into Thursday night.
Three separate stab attacks took place, with one incident involving a crossbow, in the vicinity of the controversial pyre after police withdrew from the scene at 3pm that afternoon following violent clashes with supporters of the bonfire.
Videos of two of the attacks were widely shared on social media and clearly show the victims being stabbed.
Screams can be heard during the incident next to the north Belfast bonfire before the attacker shamelessly holds the knife above his head.
The vicious stabbing was carried out in the middle of a large crowd filled with women and children.
The 18-year-old male victim was stabbed in the back during the frenzy and is in a critical condition in hospital.
Meanwhile, a 39-year-old male also sustained stab wounds to his arm and hip in another incident in the Bruslee Way area. He was also brought to hospital for treatment, however his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
Two men were arrested yesterday morning by police in relation to these incidents.
The suspects, who are aged 28 and 21, were arrested at an address off the Oldpark Road on suspicion of offences including causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
Another video also emerged on social media of a man being attacked by three others and a young child in the North Queen Street area, less than 200 yards from the bonfire.
The recording was made by a passer-by at around 8pm on Thursday and it is believed the victim was hit with a crossbow bolt before he appears to be stabbed multiple times in the lower back.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service confirmed that it was called to the scene at 8.45pm and treated a man for injuries from a crossbow and stab wounds.
Police said they were aware of the incident and that their enquiries are ongoing. Chief Inspector Kelly Moore said the PSNI is aware of footage circulating on social media and added that it will be examined as part of the investigation.
"I would encourage anyone who was in the area and who can assist the investigation to please make contact with us by calling 101, quoting reference 1818 08/08/19," she continued. "Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime."
Prior to Thursday night's violent scenes, residents in the New Lodge tower blocks next to the bonfire were urged to leave their homes by the Housing Executive, just hours before it was to be lit.
The Housing Executive has since defended its handling of the situation and said it tried four times to stop it happening.
The warning to evacuate came shortly after police retreated from a confrontation in the nationalist area over fears innocent bystanders could be hurt in any ensuing violence.
Despite sinister warnings spray-painted on the wall of the adjacent family centre next to the bonfire, reading "our wood goes, this centre goes", contractors had been tasked by the landowners, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), to remove the structure. With support from the PSNI, the contractors attempted to move into Queen's Parade before 6am but two men climbed on top of the structure in protest.
Trouble broke out after the PSNI attempted to stop the protesters' supporters throwing bottles of water to them.
Stones, bricks and fireworks were all directed at police lines before a metal barrier was thrown at officers in a later incident that morning, knocking one of them to the ground.
Another officer was knocked unconscious during a confrontation between youths and police before the media was targeted.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, who was in charge of Thursday morning's operation to remove the pyre, apologised for failing to complete their objective just two hours after over 150 officers were told to leave the scene.
Six petrol bombs were recovered and a 13-year-old youth was arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour after the violence, which saw three police officers injured.