At least 26 police officers have been injured after being attacked by “large groups of youths” throwing petrol bombs and other missiles in Belfast.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said officers had attended the Distillery Street area of the city on Saturday afternoon to support contractors tasked to remove bonfire material.
Officers came under “under sustained attack from large groups of youths throwing petrol bombs, masonry and other missiles towards police”, Superintendent Melanie Jones said.
“At this point we can confirm that at least 26 officers have sustained injuries and are currently receiving treatment,” she said.
“Footage from evidence gathering cameras will be reviewed and all efforts will be made to identify those involved in the completely unacceptable violence we have seen here today.”
The operation was the second bonfire removal in as many days after police were targeted with missiles in the Lower Falls area on Friday, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
No officers suffered injuries during that operation, it said.
Bonfires are being gathered across Northern Ireland to mark the anniversary of internment later this month, according to the newspaper.
The 1971 Operation Demetrius saw hundreds of suspected republicans across Northern Ireland interned without trial. The vast majority arrested were nationalists, although a significant number of them had no connection with the IRA.
Supt Jones said police had worked with the local community “but it is disappointing that some young people and their guardians are not listening to our repeated warnings”.
“People who choose to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviour must understand it is unacceptable and must stop,” she added.
“People have a right to live in peace and to feel safe in their communities.
“Parents and guardians have an important obligation to keep young people safe by knowing where they are going and who they are with.
“Young people must understand the dangers of getting involved in behaviour which could result in them injuring themselves or others, or ultimately, ending up with a criminal record.”