MORE than 70 police officers have been injured in four days of riots linked to a banned Orange Order parade in Belfast.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has described the violence to which its officers have been subjected to as “animalistic”.
Last night, 27 police officers were hurt as the trouble spread across Belfast and Portadown.
There were reports that blast bombs, pipe bombs and petrol bombs were thrown at police lines in Belfast.
Since Sunday, hundreds more police officers from other forces across Britain have been drafted into help quell the rioting and aid their police colleagues.
Will Kerr, PSNI’s assistant chief commissioner, said it will be calling on more “mutual aid” officers from England, Wales and Scotland in an effort to contain rioters in the worst-affected parts of Belfast.
“We will probably bring more mutual aid officers to continue through the week and to continue for as long as it is necessary,” he added.
“The Chief Constable has made it very, very clear we will have as many resources on the streets of Belfast for as long as it takes to protect communities and our officers across Northern Ireland.”
Orange leaders called for protests after the Parades Commission banned marchers from passing through a road in the nationalist Ardoyne area on Friday.
As of last night, 49 people aged between 15 and 52 had been arrested for taking part in the riots.
Of those, nine attended a special sitting of Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Sunday evening to face charges relating to a banned Orange Order parade in north Belfast.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore condemned those responsible for the violence calling the attacks on police “simply unacceptable and appalling”.
He added: “The determinations of the Parades Commission are legally binding and respect for the rule of law must be upheld.
“I believe that most members of the Orange Order would not condone the sectarianism we witnessed in recent days, be that the playing of sectarian tunes outside a Catholic Church or the burning of the Irish flag.”