14 police injured in Northern Ireland

London, UK - Violent overnight clashes in Northern Ireland left 14 policemen and five other people injured early Saturday as the volatile "marching season" reached its climax with Protestant parades.

The policemen came under attack with gasoline bombs, missiles, stones, bottles and other objects in two nationalist areas in Belfast and Portadown, said a policewoman who asked not to be identified because of departmental policy. The nationalist areas are Roman Catholic strongholds.

Four of the officers needed hospital treatment, but none of the injuries was life-threatening, she said.

The Protestant Orange Order, a conservative anti-Catholic brotherhood, organizes marches on July 12 to mark the 318th anniversary of the Protestant victory in 1690 over Catholics in the Battle of the Boyne. The traditional marches have in the past been marked by widespread violence.

The worst clashes early Saturday developed in the largely Protestant town of Portadown near Obin Street, a predominantly Catholic area, police said.

After the confrontation, which was calmed by community representatives, police said two men were arrested and charged with rioting and other offenses. One remained in custody, and a second was freed but will have to appear in court on July 18, police said.

The names of the two men arrested would not be released, police said.

There was also a clash in the hardline Catholic New Lodge area of Belfast, where a crowd of about 50 people attacked officers and a policeman suffered leg injuries.

Five more suspects were arrested at that confrontation and charged with rioting and other crimes.

Two rival groups fought in West Belfast, and five people were injured and needing hospitalization, police said.