A bus has been hijacked and set on fire in the sixth night of violence and unrest in Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘deeply concerned’ after reports of stones also being flung at police officers and a press photographer being assaulted in Belfast.
It comes after months of tension over the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol in the UK and EU’s Brexit deal, as well as the decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over alleged Covid lockdown breaches at the funeral of republican Bobby Storey.
The Translink Metrobus bus was pelted with petrol bombs on Wednesday evening at the junction of Lanark Way and Shankhill Road in west Belfast – the peace line street that links the loyalist Shankhill Road with the nationalist Springfield Road.
The windows were smashed as crowds gathered, with the public warned to avoid the area by police.
Writing on Twitter, Mr 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.’
First Minister Arlene Foster said there was ‘no justification for violence’, adding: ‘It is wrong and should stop.’
MP Claire Hanna also condemned the attack on Twitter, posting: ‘We’re told by the apologists that these protests & riots are borne of frustration about not being listened to, but an excellent photo journalist is attacked while trying to capture the story.’
Translink Metro said it had withdrawn all services from the area, as well as services in east Belfast, until further notice due to road closures.
It comes after the Northern Ireland Assembly was recalled from recess almost a week early as rioting left 41 police officers injured in five days.
Opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and drugs seizures against a dissident faction of the UDA in south-east Antrim has also been named as a catalyst.
Children as young as 12 have been involved in the violent clashes over the past week.
Officers were targeted with petrol bombs and other missiles in parts of Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Londonderry on Monday.
Nine riot police officers were injured in Ballymena after they tried to stop loyalists marching through the town on the same night.
The M2 was also closed on Monday after items including a wheelie bin were thrown onto the motorway by rioters, while Cars, a JCB digger, a phone box and bins were set alight in the Waterside area.
The DUP has called for the resignation of police chief Simon Byrne after the decision not to prosecute Sinn Féin politicians over attending a large funeral last year, despite Covid restrictions.
MP Gregory Campbell has urged loyalist protesters to ‘use their heads’ to not give rivals ‘an excuse’ to reject the demand.
He told the BBC: ‘If people use their heads and they think ahead and say ‘we’re not going to give people the opportunity to say a chief constable can’t stand down because of the threat of violence.
‘That is something that would have a resonance across the community. Don’t give them that excuse.
‘They should think long and hard before taking part in any protests that could eventually result in violence and serious hurt being done to individuals as well as to the wider community they live in.’
Chief Constable Simon Byrne has said the ‘ongoing street disorder must stop’.
He tweeted: ‘I am open to dialogue with anyone who is willing to work with me to resolve the issues facing our community.
‘My message to those engaged in violence tonight is go home before someone is seriously injured, violence is not the answer.’
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