Belfast police attacked by ‘large groups of youths’ armed with petrol bombs and missiles
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Belfast police attacked by ‘large groups of youths’ armed with petrol bombs and missiles

AS MANY as 26 police officers have been injured by “large groups of youths” in an attack involving petrol bombs in Belfast. 

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has confirmed that more than two-dozen officers were hurt while assisting in the removal of bonfire material from an area of Distillery Street. 

The bonfires were organised as part of an attempt to mark the anniversary of internment this month. 

Superintendent Melanie Jones described how officers came "under sustained attack from large groups of youths throwing petrol bombs, masonry and other missiles towards police.” 

"At this point we can confirm that at least 26 officers have sustained injuries and are currently receiving treatment," she said. 

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"Footage from evidence gathering cameras will be reviewed and all efforts will be made to identify those involved in the completely unacceptable violence we have seen here today." 

The removal was the second operation of its kind to take place in Belfast over the past few days. 

On Friday, bonfire materials were also removed from the Lower Falls area of the Northern Irish capital. 

The bonfires were designed to mark the anniversary of internment this month. 

In 1971, hundreds of suspected republicans were interned without trial as part of Operation Demetrius, a British Army operation in Northern Ireland that took place from August 9 to 10. 

Most of those arrested were nationalists however a significant proportion were ultimately found to have no connection to the IRA. 

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Commenting on the attempted bonfires and aggressive reaction to their removal. Superintendent Jones said it was disappointing that some young people and their guardians are not listening to our repeated warnings". 

"People who choose to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviour must understand it is unacceptable and must stop," she said. 

"People have a right to live in peace and to feel safe in their communities. 

"Parents and guardians have an important obligation to keep young people safe by knowing where they are going and who they are with. 

"Young people must understand the dangers of getting involved in behaviour which could result in them injuring themselves or others, or ultimately, ending up with a criminal record."