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Sunday, 21 October, 2001, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
Girls injured in Belfast 'blast'
Riots in north Belfast
Security forces intervened to try to keep rival factions apart
Two young girls have been injured in what police believe was a blast bomb attack in north Belfast, following a weekend of violence.

The girls, aged eight and 11, were taken to hospital after the attack, which happened in the Limestone Road area at around 2030 BST on Sunday.

It follows an earlier incident in the same road, when a man was shot and wounded after violence flared between rival factions.

Assistant chief constable for Belfast Alan McQuillan said he believed loyalists carried out the attack which injured the girls.

He said: "We believe at this stage that it was some form of blast device and that it was thrown from the loyalist side towards the nationalists and that the children injured were on the nationalist side. But is early days yet."

The children, whose condition is not yet known, were hurt as rival groups continued to throw fireworks at each other at several spots in north Belfast.

Earlier riots

On Sunday afternoon a Protestant man believed to be in his 20s was shot near Halliday's Road.

He was taken to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for surgery.

The Democratic Unionist Party MP for North Belfast, Nigel Dodds, accused the IRA of being behind the gun attack.

But Mr McQuillan said that while the firing point for the shooting had been found on the nationalist side, it was too early to say which organisation was responsible.

Police said about 100 republicans and 50 loyalists were involved in the trouble.

The security forces had to intervene to try to keep the rival factions apart.

Loyalists said a number of shots were fired at them, while nationalists claimed pipe bombs had been thrown at them.

Army bomb experts were also called in to examine three suspect devices.

One was a pipe bomb, the other a firework with shrapnel attached and the third was later declared a hoax.

On Saturday, several people, including three police officers, were injured during trouble between rival factions in a neighbouring part of north Belfast.

Clashes

Stones, fireworks and bottles were thrown at the security forces on the flashpoint Ardoyne Road area of the city at about 1400 BST.

The police formed lines across the road to separate loyalist and nationalist residents.

A pensioner was struck by a firework during the clashes.

Loyalists said they were attacked with shards of metal.

The area was later reported peaceful after most of the crowds faded away.

Sectarian tensions in north Belfast and surrounding areas have been high since the summer.

In recent months both Catholic and Protestant homes have been attacked.

The tensions also spilled over into sporadic outbreaks of rioting and street clashes in recent weeks.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"Another weekend of serious and sustained rioting"
See also:

24 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Belfast violence 'worst in 20 years'
24 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Police hurt in violent clashes
30 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble: Call off loyalist violence
01 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Ministers tackle north Belfast violence
20 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Several injured in sectarian clashes
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