LONDON - Police in Northern Ireland fired plastic bullets and water cannon on rioters late on Monday in a second night of sectarian clashes between Catholics and Protestants that left nine police officers injured.

Police fired plastic rounds for the first time during the disturbances after protesters threw petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks and stones at officers trying to separate rival groups in north Belfast.

Rioters from the Protestant group hijacked a van at one point and pushed it at police lines. At least three of the injured officers were taken to a hospital.

The second night of disturbances followed a march by a Catholic Irish nationalist band in an area where Protestant groups were recently barred from marching.

At least 47 officers were hurt in clashes on Sunday in the dispute over the rights of the two communities to hold parades in the area.

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