Catholic militants attack police in west Belfast, two officers wounded

Two Northern Ireland police officers were wounded when a militant crowd in Catholic west Belfast attacked police and firefighters with bricks, authorities said Sunday.

The trouble flared Saturday night outside an Andersonstown Road gas station, where a crowd had set fire to a gas-filled cylinder in an apparent bid to attract the police to a spot for ambush. Police escorting fire crews trying to douse the flames were pelted with bricks and other makeshift weapons from a 150-strong mob.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said one officer suffered head wounds, while another suffered leg wounds, as police sought to make arrests. One man and one teenage boy were arrested on suspicion of rioting. Police said five of the force's heavily armored vehicles were damaged.

Earlier Saturday, men and youths threw rocks and a Molotov cocktail at police in another hard-line Catholic district, Ballymurphy, as officers protected a home belonging to an elderly couple. Local youths had shoved firecrackers through the front-door mailslot of the couple's home, causing a fire and terrifying them, police said. Nobody was reported injured.

Mob assaults on police and fire crews have been frequent in Belfast in recent years. They occur in the most hard-line districts of both the British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of the community AP reports.

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