The trouble flared on Saturday night outside an Andersonstown Road petrol station, where a crowd had set fire to a petrol-filled cylinder, in an apparent bid to attract the police to a spot for ambush, the authorities said.

Police escorting fire crews trying to douse the flames were pelted with bricks and other makeshift weapons from a 150-strong mob.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said on Sunday one officer suffered head wounds, while another suffered leg wounds, as police sought to make arrests.

One man and one teenage boy were arrested on suspicion of rioting. Police said five of the force's heavily armoured vehicles were damaged.

House attacked

Earlier on Saturday, men and youths threw stones and a Molotov cocktail at police in another hardline Catholic district, Ballymurphy, as officers protected a home belonging to an elderly couple.

Local youths had shoved firecrackers through the front-door mail slot of the couple's home, causing a fire and terrifying them, police said.

Nobody was reported injured.

Mob assaults on police and fire crews have been frequent in Belfast in recent years.

They occur in the most hardline districts of both the British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of the community.