A photographer of a British national news agency was shot in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, as the city witnessed what was described as the worst violence for a decade amid fears that sectarian paramilitary groups, angered by media criticism, were deliberately targeting journalists.
The cameraman, who worked for the Press Association, was shot by a masked gunman as he was filming scenes of rioting on Tuesday, the second consecutive night of clashes blamed on rival dissident Protestant and Catholic groups opposed to the peace process.
Several others were also injured as rioters hurled petrol bombs, bottles and bricks and attacked property. Police fired plastic bullets to control the rampaging mobs.
Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said there had been “serious, sustained violence”. “Over two nights we have seen three people shot and injured, communities wrecked, houses and businesses damaged, lives put at serious risk. This has got to stop, it is time for cool heads, for people to take a step back,” he said.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, who heads the coalition administration comprising the Catholic Sinn Fein and the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party, said people were “horrified” at what had happened. The photographer, who underwent surgery, was reported to be out of danger.
Police said it was “odd to target a journalist in this particular way”.
Mr. Finlay described it as a “very strange development” suggesting it was “more likely” that someone was trying to target the police. But eyewitnesses insisted that gunmen appeared to be deliberately attacking journalists.
East Belfast, the scene of the violence, has a history of tension between its Protestant and Catholic communities who are separated by a “peace wall”.
Keywords: Belfast rioting