Bus driver wounded in latest North Ireland clashes

Rioters in Northern Ireland, petrol bombed police and a bus driver was wounded after his vehicle was hijacked in the latest round of sectarian clashes in capital Belfast. Police said yesterday that they were battling to restore order in the Newtownards Road area, an interface between loyalist and nationalist neighbourhoods in the city's east that has been the scene of serious disorder since a row over the flying of the British flag erupted on December 3.

Nationalist party Sinn Fein claimed that homes in a republican neighbourhood were petrol bombed by a crowd wielding union flags. Bus operator Translink confirmed that the injured driver received hospital treatment for cuts to his face sustained

during one of two bus hijackings yesterday. Twenty-nine police officers were injured Saturday as they used water cannon and plastic bullets to quell protests by pro-British loyalists from the Protestant community. Since the city council voted last month to restrict the number of days the British flag is flown over the city hall to 18 per year, 101 police officers have been injured and 112 people arrested. Loyalists see the council's decision as an attack on their identity as part of the United Kingdom, and an unacceptable concession to republicans seeking a united Ireland.

A 1998 peace agreement brought an end to three decades of sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics, known as the Troubles, but sporadic bomb threats and murders by dissident republicans continue.

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