Leaders call for calm after night of serious violence in Northern Ireland

Hijacked bus set on fire and gasoline bombs hurled at police in Belfast during at least the fourth night of serious violence in a week in Northern Ireland.

Leaders call for calm after night of serious violence in Northern Ireland Photo

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Young people set a hijacked bus on fire and hurled gasoline bombs at police in Belfast in at least the fourth night of serious violence in a week in Northern Ireland, where Britains exit from the European Union has unsettled an uneasy political balance.

People also lobbed bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs Wednesday night in both directions over a concrete "peace wall" that separates Protestant, British loyalist and Catholic, Irish nationalist neighborhoods.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said several hundred people gathered on both sides of a gate in the wall, where "crowds ... were committing serious criminal offenses, both attacking police and attacking each other."

The recent violence, largely in loyalist, Protestant areas, has flared amid rising tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and worsening relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing Belfast government. Britains economic split from the E.U. last year has disturbed the political balance in Northern Ireland, where some people identify as British and want to stay part of the U.K., while others see themselves as Irish and seek unity with the neighboring Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the unrest, and Northern Irelands Belfast-based government was holding an emergency meeting Thursday on the violence.

Johnson appealed for calm, saying "the way to resolve differences is through dialogue, not violence or criminality." Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, and Deputy First Minister Michelle ONeill, of Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, both condemned the disorder and the attacks on police.

The latest disturbances followed unrest over the Easter long weekend in pro-British unionist areas in and around Belfast and Londonderry, also known as Derry, that saw cars set on fire and projectiles and gasoline bombs hurled at police officers.

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