BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Gangs of masked men wielding axes and clubs smashed homes of Roman Catholics, gunmen shot two people and Protestants attacked police Monday during rioting in Northern Ireland.
Police said that 187 people--128 of them police officers--were injured. In addition to the damaged dwellings, 81 other homes, most of them occupied by Catholics, were threatened with attacks over the weekend.
Police fired more than 300 plastic bullets to break up fighting, officials said.
Militant Catholics in Northern Ireland have been waging a bloody campaign to end British rule in the province and reunite it with the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic. Protestants, who outnumber Catholics in Northern Ireland, are fighting to retain British rule. They strongly oppose an Anglo-Irish accord giving the Irish Republic a voice in Ulster affairs.
Nearly 1,000 police officers and British soldiers were sent to Portadown, 30 miles west of Belfast, to prevent trouble between Catholics and parading Protestants early Monday.
Youths Attacked Police
A Protestant mob of about 100 youths attacked police in Portadown at midday in an attempt to rip down a corrugated iron screen erected to keep them away from Catholic areas of the town.
The mob threw stones and bottles at police and managed to rip away part of the structure. One policeman was slightly injured.
Police said that, shortly after midnight Monday, about 60 masked Protestant loyalists swinging axes and clubs smashed their way into the homes of 11 Catholics and a Protestant pensioner in the village of Rasharkin, 45 miles north of Belfast.
In what police described as a "carefully planned operation," the attackers bashed in windows and doors in a 10-minute spree. Several young men chased by the raiders fled through upstairs bedroom windows.
Authorities said the attack apparently was in retaliation for the tearing down of a wooden arch, erected by the Protestant Orange Order for its banners and emblems, in the village Friday night.
Catholic Shot 3 Times
A Catholic in his early 20s was shot three times in the head early Monday by masked gunmen as he stood at the door of his home in the Ligoniel district of northern Belfast, police said. He was listed in serious condition in a hospital.
In a separate incident, a second man was wounded in the leg in what police said was a "mystery shooting" in the Highfield district of west Belfast. His injury was not believed to be serious.
Sporadic violence broke out before dawn in both Belfast and Portadown, where Protestant and Catholic mobs hurling stones and gasoline bombs attacked police, who retaliated with plastic bullets. No injuries were reported.
Nearly 1,000 police officers and British troops patrolled Portadown later Monday during a parade by the Royal Black Preceptory, a Protestant organization similar to the Orange Order.
About 300 Catholics staged a sitdown across the parade route, but three Portadown chapters of the organization switched to another route to link up with 19 other units in the town center.
The Protestants then went peacefully by bus to the village of Scarva, 15 miles from Portadown, to continue their summer observances of the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne between Protestant King William of Orange and Catholic King James II in 1690.