BELFAST, Northern Ireland – A suspected Protestant gunman opened fire during a night of renewed rioting in north Belfast, and one man was injured by a stray bullet, witnesses said Saturday.
The violence came hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern, completed a compromise plan for salvaging Northern Ireland's peace accord.
Street skirmishes broke out in part of north Belfast where Catholics and Protestants are separated by a high fence. Several people needed hospital treatment for injuries in the hand-to-hand fighting, police said.
Later Friday, around 300 rioters took to the streets, pelting police with gasoline bombs, stones and bottles.
Two extended bursts of automatic gunfire rang out in the sprawling Catholic stronghold of Ardoyne. The incident was captured by Sky News, a cable news station that was interviewing Gerry Kelly, senior official in the Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein party.
As the shots rang out, Kelly and the camera crew ducked for cover, believing they were coming under attack.
A man was taken to a hospital and was treated for a minor facial injury, possibly caused by a ricocheting bullet, a spokeswoman for the Royal Ulster Constabulary said.
Sinn Fein blamed the latest outbreak of fighting on the outlawed anti-Catholic group, the Ulster Defense Association.
"It is the UDA who are firing automatic fire and trying to shoot people," Kelly said.
North Belfast councilor Nelson McCausland of the Democratic Unionist Party blamed IRA supporters for the violence and said the IRA had been attacking outnumbered Protestants in Ardoyne.
"It would not be the case that loyalists (hardline Protestants) would start something in that situation, it would be madness for them to do it," McCausland told BBC Radio Ulster.
The same area saw fierce Catholic rioting following a Protestant parade on July 12. More than 100 RUC officers were injured.