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Riots Follow British-Irish Agreement

Northern Ireland: Violence breaks out in Belfast after two prime ministers make a deal to salvage the province's peace accord.

July 29, 2001|From Associated Press

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — A suspected Protestant gunman opened fire during a night of renewed rioting in north Belfast, and one man was injured by a stray bullet, witnesses said Saturday.

The violence came hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, completed a compromise plan for salvaging Northern Ireland's peace accord.

Street skirmishes broke out in parts of north Belfast where Roman Catholics and Protestants are separated by a high fence. Several people needed hospital treatment for injuries from hand-to-hand fighting, police said.

Later Friday, around 300 rioters took to the streets, pelting police with gasoline bombs, stones and bottles.

Two extended bursts of automatic gunfire rang out in the sprawling Catholic stronghold of Ardoyne.

A man was taken to a hospital and treated for a minor facial injury, possibly caused by a ricocheting bullet, a spokeswoman for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, or RUC, said.

The Irish Republican Army's political ally, Sinn Fein, blamed the latest outbreak of fighting on the outlawed anti-Catholic group the Ulster Defense Assn.

"It is the UDA who are firing automatic fire and trying to shoot people," said Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein.

North Belfast councilor Nelson McCausland of the Democratic Unionist Party said the IRA had been attacking outnumbered Protestants in Ardoyne.

"It would not be the case that loyalists [hard-line Protestants] would start something in that situation," McCausland told BBC Radio Ulster.

The same area saw fierce Catholic rioting after a Protestant parade July 12. More than 100 RUC officers were injured.

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