Fears of violence at Sunday’s armed forces parade were heightened today after Sinn Fein multiplied the size of its protest.
Up to 2,000 protesters are now expected to take part in the demonstration — more than four times the number originally estimated.
Dissident republicans are also planning an illegal march.
Figures posted on the Parades Commission website were updated last night —after Sinn Fein announced it would alter the times and route of its rally to facilitate peace.
Unionists have accused Sinn Fein of heightening tensions but the party’s Paul Maskey defended the increase in the number of protesters. “A lot of people have expressed an interest to attend our protest. That’s the maximum number we are looking to have, there’s nothing more to it.”
The Belfast Telegraph can also reveal that British soldiers not participating in the homecoming parade have been banned from Belfast all weekend.
It is understood senior officers have ordered their men to stay out of the city centre between 4pm Friday and 4pm on Monday.
Yesterday the MoD dumped plans for an RAF flypast and said soldiers returning from Afghanistan would not be armed as they walked the city centre parade route.