Police warn as more violence erupts

This Is Wiltshire: A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast, where police were targeted by rioters A burning barricade on the Newtownards road area of Belfast, where police were targeted by rioters

Loyalist violence over the flying of the union flag will be firmly dealt with for as long as necessary, Northern Ireland's police chief has declared.

Matt Baggott's warning came just hours before fresh disturbances erupted in Belfast, with police coming under attack for a fourth night in a row.

A mob hurled steel barriers, bricks, fireworks and bottles at officers patrolling Castlereagh Street in the east of the city.

A protest in the area earlier in the day had dispersed, before factions broke away and launched an onslaught on police lines.

Disorder was also reported on Mountpottinger Road and Beersbridge Road, where a car was set ablaze. But PSNI chief constable Mr Baggott has signalled his rank-and-file were fully prepared to deal with the ongoing street disturbances.

"I want to commend the tireless courage of my officers at this very difficult time," he said. "Fifty two colleagues have now been injured while protecting the community during a series of violent incidents. You may be assured there will be sufficient resources in the event of more disorder for however long is necessary."

Mr Baggott said the PSNI will do "everything possible" to maintain law and order and deal firmly with the ugly scenes that have marred Northern Ireland over recent days. He added: "As you have seen in the last few days we will continue to apprehend and put people before the courts."

So far, 70 people have been arrested in connection with the sporadic rioting over the flying of the union flag on Belfast's City Hall. Through special sittings of the city's magistrates court, 47 people have already being charged. On Saturday, frontline officers reported coming under gunfire. A 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

More than 1,000 demonstrators had earlier marched on City Hall, but despite tense scenes and some scuffles the rally passed off without major incident. As the flag-waving crowds broke up, violence again flared on the Newtownards Road and surrounding areas in the traditionally unionist east of the city.

Around 100 loyalists hurled petrol bombs, fireworks, smoke canisters, bricks and other masonry at officers, the PSNI said. Laser pens were also directed at officers' faces. Police responded with water cannon and fired three plastic bullets. One officer was injured.

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