Fifteen Northern Irish police officers were injured during a second consecutive night of sectarian rioting in north Belfast, police said yesterday.

Officers fired six baton rounds and used water cannons during the unrest, which first erupted on Sunday when loyalists from the Protestant community attempted to disrupt a march by Catholic republicans.

It bought the total number of police injured over both nights to 62 after 47 officers were hurt in Sunday night’s disorder, including four officers who received hospital treatment before being released.

Three of the officers injured on Monday were also hospitalised but later released, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said.

On both nights, loyalists and republicans gathered in the Carlisle Circus area in the north of the city and pelted police with petrol bombs, bricks, stones and fireworks as they tried to keep the two groups apart.

A van was also hijacked on Monday and pushed into police lines prompting police to deploy four water cannons.

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Federation, Terry Spence, praised the “bravery and courage” of the frontline officers, saying it was “in stark contrast to that of the cowardly thugs responsible for trying to murder them”.

Northern Irish assistant chief constable Will Kerr said: “I am very proud of how my colleagues stood in the face of danger, working to bring this situation under control.

“But I am saddened and angry that again we find ourselves subject to serious violence from the communities we serve.

“Let me be clear, we have made seven arrests already and with a robust criminal justice strategy in place, there will be more.”

Around 3,500 people died in the three decades of sectarian violence between Northern Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants that largely ended with a 1998 peace agreement, though sporadic unrest and bomb threats continue.

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