N. Ireland riots blamed on Protestant outlaws

Friday, April 5, 2002

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Police blamed Northern Ireland's major outlawed Protestant group Thursday for stoking days of riots in north Belfast.

Also Thursday, Catholics in Ardoyne, a focal point for riots in the past year, said a Protestant gunman fired five shots at them while other Protestants threw bricks and rocks at Catholic homes. Nobody was reported hurt.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan, who is overseeing the effort to keep apart rival Protestant and Catholic mobs, said Ulster Defense Association members bombarded his forces with dozens of homemade grenades and gasoline bombs Wednesday night. Police reported five bursts of gunfire and said they fired 15 plastic bullets at rioters.

Thirteen officers were injured, although none seriously. The nightly street mayhem has escalated steadily since last weekend.

"Moderate community leaders are being threatened by the UDA, who are telling them to stay out of it. The UDA want to get at their Catholic neighbors and we are stopping them," McQuillan said.

He called Wednesday night's clashes near the Limestone Road, a boundary between rival Catholic and Protestant districts, "one of the most serious riots we have had in a year."

He said the UDA had mounted "a very clearly orchestrated attack by 400 youths, many of them brought in from outside." But politicians linked to outlawed Protestant groups blamed police for the violence, accusing the predominantly Protestant force of moving too aggressively into Protestant turf and not doing enough to stop Catholic attacks.

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