Riots have blighted Belfast for a second night as petrol bombs, bottles and bricks were thrown at police in the worst rioting in 10 years.

A press photographer was shot as hundreds of youths took to the streets of the Short Strand area of the Northern Irish city, which is a Catholic enclave in the mainly Protestant area in east Belfast. It’s a notorious flashpoint.

Three rounds were fired by a gunman who appeared to be deliberately targeting the media.

The photographer who was shot was from The Press Association and had been documenting the violence.

He was wounded in the leg and taken to Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was said to be in a stable condition.

The violence centred around interfaces close to the Newtonards Road, has been blamed on the Ulster Volunteer Force – loyalist paramilitaries who are supposed to be keeping to a ceasefire.

Two men had earlier been shot in the leg during an intense bout of fighting on Monday night. A third was hit by a concrete block and fractured his skull.

It followed loyalist attacks on houses in the Short Strand area.

Police said they were dealing with "serious disorder" and confirmed a water cannon had been used to try and deter the rioters.

Masked youths pelted each other with stones, fireworks, bricks and bottles. Petrol bombs were also used.

Officers have been talking to community representatives to try to calm tensions, and motorists have been advised to avoid the area, where roads have been closed. Media are also warned to stay away.

The sudden upsurge in violence has been blamed on simmering sectarian tensions in the city.

But others have put it down to rivalries within the UVF over curbs to contentious parades and police investigations into crimes during the Troubles.

The UVF is one of the largest loyalist groups and was blamed for a murder last year despite having observed a ceasefire and decommissioning its weapons.

A paramilitary watchdog found the UVF leadership had sanctioned the "public execution" of loyalist Bobby Moffett, who was shot dead in front of shoppers.

UVF murals have recently appeared in east Belfast showing masked, armed men. They represent an apparent bid by the group to make its mark.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have both condemned the riots.

Mr Robinson said: "At this time when many are working hard to build a better and brighter future for all in Northern Ireland, it is disappointing and deeply concerning to see this level of violence return to our streets."

Mr McGuinness added: "A small minority of individuals are clearly determined to destabilise our communities.

"They will not be allowed to drag us back to the past. I call on all those involved to take a step back and to remain calm."