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40 police hurt in N. Ireland riots

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Three cars and a lorry were hijacked and set alight.

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Northern Ireland

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Forty police officers were injured during clashes with angry loyalists in Belfast on Thursday.

None of the police officers' injuries are reported to be life threatening.

Authorities in Northern Ireland blamed Protestant militants for the five-hour riot.

Residents blamed police behavior during raids earlier in the day connected to a probe into a loyalist paramilitary feud, claiming officers used abusive language towards children.

The disturbances flared around 5.30 p.m. on Thursday with three cars and a lorry being hijacked and set alight.

A blast bomb was thrown at police lines at around 10 p.m., while a bus was completely destroyed and other vehicles were damaged.

A HGV cab was also driven at police lines.

Officers also came under fire from petrol and paint bombs as well as fireworks.

Earlier, six people were arrested as officers raided a total of 15 homes in connection with their probe into a feud between the Ulster Volunteer Force and its rival, the Loyalist Volunteer Force which has claimed the lives of three people in the past week.

Democratic Unionist councilor William Humphrey expressed concern about police conduct during Thursday's raids.

"We have raised the behavior of some officers which I witnessed yesterday with senior officers," he said.

"We want to see community relations being built in this community and not destroyed."

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Wesley Wilson said any allegations against officers would be investigated.

"I know that there have been allegations of heavy-handedness by people," he said.

"The allegations made to the District Commander of North Belfast will be investigated and there are procedures for doing that."

He said Authorities believed the riots had been aimed at disrupting the investigation of the feuding factions and an attempt to stop police from making arrests.

However he said the allegations still did not justify last night's rioting.

Although there was no direct evidence that loyalist paramilitaries were directing the violence, the acting ACC said it was reasonable to suspect the Ulster Volunteer Force orchestrated the disturbances.

"These people had wheelie bins full of bricks and bottles, they had so many petrol bombs that we actually stopped counting how many were thrown at our officers and blast bombs," he said.

While no arrests were made, he confirmed police would be reviewing video evidence to identify those involved.

Northern Ireland Office minister David Hanson condemned last night's rioting.

"Once again it is loyalist paramilitaries who have brought violence into loyalist areas," he said.

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland will protect the whole community and must have the support of the whole community. Those with influence must use to bring an end to this self-destructive violence."

Journalist Herve Amoric contributed to this report

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