Belfast cops attacked on 40th day of flag protest

Militant Protestants have attacked Northern Ireland police and blocked roads across Belfast as protests over the city council's decision to lower the British flag reached their 40th day.

Protesters blocked two dozen Belfast roads at rush hour Friday night. Thousands of workers fled the city early in expectation of what has become nightly disruption since Catholic council members voted Dec. 3 to remove the British flag from city hall except for 18 official days annually.

Police say four officers were injured amid barrages of 33 petrol bombs and other hand-thrown weapons in two suburbs north of Belfast.

Officers used mobile water cannons and at least five plastic bullets to fend off rioters.

Northern Ireland's major freeway was closed southwest of Belfast after police discovered a pipe bomb by the roadside.