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A bonfire on the Shore Road in Belfast last night via @bowlinshoes

Petrol bombs and violence in Belfast ahead of Twelfth of July marches

Twenty-two police officers were injured in the disturbances overnight.

Updated 8am

SERIOUS RIOTING IN west Belfast saw crowds of nationalist protesters hurl petrol bombs and masonry at police overnight as the city prepares for today’s Twelfth of July parades.

A total of 22 members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) were injured as plastic bullets and water canons were used in the Broadway and Oldpark areas of the city.

BBC News reports that police are investigating whether shots were fired as scenes of chaos saw a bus hijacked on the Falls Road. The driver was dragged from the vehicle and passengers ordered off.

The bus was then driven at police lines on the Donegall Road, but crashed a short distance away.

On the Broadway and Falls Road areas, between 100 and 200 people threw missiles and stones with police using water canons in response. In North Queen Street, around 40 people  gathered and petrol was thrown at police.

The Guardian reports that motorists are advised to avoid using the motorway near the Falls Road, Donegall Road and Broadway.

The latest violence comes as a major security operation is underway ahead of today’s Twelfth of July parades being held by Orange Order members in Northern Ireland.

Thousands of Orangemen and bandsmen are due to take to the streets later as part of the annual event which marks the 1690 Battle of the Boyne and signals the height of the marching season.

RTÉ News reports that the PSNI is mounting a major security operation at several flash point areas with nationalists planning counter marches.

The Irish News says that there have been calls for calm as a heavy police presence is expected in the Ardoyne area. It points to last year’s violence which was some of the worst in recent years and saw police fire 150 baton rounds.

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