Bus firebombed and police attacked as Boris Johnson condemns latest night of violence in Belfast
BORIS Johnson last night condemned the violence that was engulfing the streets of Northern Ireland after a bus was firebombed and police pelted with stones.
The Prime Minister tweeted he was "deeply concerned" as hundreds continue to riot on the streets of Belfast.
The bus was set alight after being pelted with petrol bombs at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankill Road in west Belfast, the PSNI said.
It was one of a number of violent incidents unfolding on the peace line street that links the loyalist Shankill Road with the nationalist Springfield Road.
Writing on Twitter, Johnson said: "I am deeply concerned by the scenes of violence in Northern Ireland, especially attacks on PSNI who are protecting the public and businesses, attacks on a bus driver and the assault of a journalist.
"The way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality."
It follows several nights of unrest in loyalist communities amid tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit and the PSNI's handling of alleged coronavirus regulation breaches by Sinn Fein at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.
Stones were thrown at police while a press photographer was assaulted nearby.
Later on, the gates of the peace line on Lanark Way were opened, leading to clashes between loyalists and nationalists.
Social media footage captured petrol bombs being thrown from both sides of the wall.
First Minister Arlene Foster condemned the attacks on Twitter, saying: "There is no justification for violence. It is wrong and should stop."
She later added: "This is not protest. This is vandalism and attempted murder. These actions do not represent unionism or loyalism.
"They are an embarrassment to Northern Ireland and only serve to take the focus off the real lawbreakers in Sinn Fein. My thoughts are with the bus driver."
Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said: "Disgraceful scenes of criminality tonight including a potentially lethal attack on bus driver and assault on journalist.
"Unequivocal condemnation needed and protests should be called off immediately – police need support not politicking."
This is not protest, this is vandalism and attempted murder, these actions do not represent unionism or loyalism
Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon described the attack on the bus as "sickening".
She said: "Those attacking their own communities and their own public services are achieving nothing and if this doesn't stop now it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed.
"Tonight with deep regret Translink has had to suspended some services in Belfast due to ongoing disturbances.
"Thankfully no one has been hurt in this incidence, but those responsible for this attack, and ongoing attacks on the police, need to stop and stop now.
"I appeal for calm and call on those destroying their own communities and those fanning the flames to end this recklessness before someone is seriously hurt or killed."
Videos circulating online show a bus being pelted with petrol bombs and having its windows smashed where a crowd of people had gathered.
Translink Metro said it had withdrawn all services into the area until further notice due to road closures, as well as services in east Belfast.
A crowd of around 500 people, most of them adults, gathered on the corner of the junction at Lanark Way as events unfolded.
Further down the road a bonfire was lit where a crowd of approximately 100 people, mostly young, were assembled.
The Stormont Assembly is set to be recalled on Thursday morning for an emergency debate following days of violence.
Riots and attacks on police have taken place repeatedly throughout the last week and have now resumed after a relative lull on Tuesday.
Police were attacked during another night of violence in a number of loyalist areas on Monday.
Nine officers were injured in Ballymena, taking to 41 the number injured in disorder across Northern Ireland since last Friday night.
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