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Belfast flag protests continue with 1 arrested for attempted murder

About 100 protesters attacked police with bricks, bottles and fireworks today in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Belfast flag protests 01 05 2013Enlarge
Loyalists flying British Union Flags march outside Belfast City Hall in protest over city council's decision to restrict the number of days the Union Flag can be flown over the city hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on January 5, 2013. (PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Two men are under arrest – one for attempted murder – after about 100 protesters attacked police with bricks, bottles and fireworks today in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Violence and protests have continued in Northern Ireland for three days, with reports of shots fired at police today.

The violence erupted after about 1,000 marched peacefully against a city council decision to limit how often the union flag appears above city hall, The Associated Press reported.

Police retaliated with water cannons to break up the demonstration.

Northern Ireland is split between Protestants loyal to the United Kingdom and Catholics who favor uniting with Ireland.

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On Dec. 3, city officials made their decision to limit how often the British flag flew at city hall.

“This is a very sinister development and quite clearly the police came under fire this afternoon from a gunman,” Police Federation chairman Terry Spencehe said at BBC.co.uk.

“What it clearly does demonstrate is that there has been paramilitary involvement in these attacks on police.”

Another 18 people were under arrest and nine officers injured on Friday, AFP said.

An estimated 300 people hurled bricks and firebombs at police.

Protestant leaders said the violence undermines any legitimate complaints.

“Those responsible are doing a grave disservice to the cause they claim to espouse and are playing into the hands of those dissident groups who would seek to exploit every opportunity to further their terror aims,” Peter Robinson, leader of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, told AFP.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/130105/belfast-flag-protests-northern-ireland-shots-fired-police