A forensic officer works around a burnt-out unmarked police
car in East Belfast after protesters threw a petrol bomb
into the vehicle while an officer was inside.
Police have been attacked in Belfast by loyalists enraged
by a decision to remove the British flag from Belfast City
Hall, which has sparked eight consecutive days of protests.
About 15 masked men broke out of a crowd assembled in the
predominantly Protestant Newtownards Road area, smashed the
windows of a police car and threw a petrol bomb into it while
an officer was still inside, police said.
The officer escaped unharmed but the Police Service of
Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they were treating the attack on
Monday night (local time) as attempted murder.
The attack was one of a series of protests across the city on
Monday during which stones and fireworks were hurled at
police, who responded with water cannon in at least two
Loyalists have been protesting against a decision by Irish
nationalist city councillors from Sinn Fein and the SDLP to
take down the flag which had flown above the provincial
capital's city hall every day since it opened in 1906.
The decision by councillors means Britain's 'Union Jack' flag
will now fly on 17 days during the year, as is the case at
the provincial assembly at Stormont in the British-controlled
"This was a planned attempt to kill a police officer which
also put the lives of the public in danger," Assistant Chief
Constable George Hamilton said.
The attack happened outside the constituency office of Naomi
Long, a member of the British parliament for the
non-sectarian centrist Alliance party.
Long was forced to flee her home last week after receiving
threats over her party's support of the removal of the flag
from City Hall.
Later on Monday night, police separated rival loyalist and
republican crowds rioting in a flashpoint area between the
loyalist east Belfast and the small nationalist Short Strand
Violence has raged for seven of the last eight days since the
decision, in Belfast and around the and nearly 30 officers
have been injured.
About 10 people have appeared in court charged with offences
linked to the rioting - the youngest just 13 years of age.
Violence between the province's mainly Catholic republicans
and pro-British Protestants, which raged on and off for three
decades, has largely ended since a peace agreement was signed
in 1998, but much of Belfast remains divided along sectarian