BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Ulster Protestants enraged by a 5-day-old Anglo-Irish agreement attacked Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King on his way into City Hall today and trapped him in the building for nearly two hours.
King was punched, kicked and grabbed in a hammerlock by about 50 people who screamed abuse and chanted 'traitor, traitor' before the British official was whisked to safety by bodyguards and police.
A witness said the visibly shaken King, Britain's highest representative in Ulster, at one point was hit on the head by a flagpole draped with a Union Jack but did not require medical attention.
Police swarmed into the city center and closed off roads, creating massive traffic jams, before removing King from City Hall.
Police reported one arrest and sources said they had apparently decided to 'move softly' to prevent further protests. There were no reports of serious injury.
An ashen-faced King later called his attackers 'thugs' and said, 'If they are not capable of rational argument and resort to this method then it can only hurt their case. Such violence and abusive reaction do not reflect the feelings of the vast majority of people.'
King's car was pelted with eggs as he arrived at city hall for his first speaking engagement in the province since the pact was signed on Friday.
He was jostled by the mob of up to 50 Protestants, including prominent local figures -- one of whom got him in a headlock and tried to tackle him before he escaped into the building.
Fighting broke out between the crowd and King's bodyguards and witnesses said the mob of Protestants then blocked all four entrances to the large Victorian-era city hall -- some with cars -- and laid siege to the building.
Under the deal signed last week, Dublin for the first time recognized the status of the British-ruled province in exchange for being given an advisory role in the affairs of Ulster.
King had been scheduled to address broadcasting officials in his first speaking engagement in the province since the signing.
Earlier today, he participated in an hour-long radio phone-in show during which Protestant callers hurled abuse at him and threatened to resist the agreement.
Protestant politicians fear the agreement will lead to a British pullout from the province and have threatened to wreck the agreement by constitutional means -- including a legal challenge, boycotts and mass resignations from the British Parliament.
Newspapers across the province, which has 1 million Protestants and 500,000 Catholics, carried advertisements from Protestant political parties today urging people to attend a massive protest rally in Belfast Saturday.
Across the border in Dublin, police today seized a small arms cache hidden aboard a Boeing 707 cargo plane at Dublin Airport, and said they believed the weapons were destined for the outlawed Irish Republican Army.
A semi-automatic rifle, a revolver, rifle magazines, 500 rounds of ammunition and a telescopic sight that can be used for sniping were found behind paneling in a toilet of the aircraft, police said.
They said the plane was owned by a Swiss freight company but was on lease to a firm in Ghana. Airport authorities said the plane had been in a number of countries including France, Yugoslavia, Iran, Nicaraguaand Mexico.
The Irish Parliament meanwhile continued debate today on the pact signed Friday by Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald and his British counterpart Margaret Thatcher.
FitzGerald said he hoped the agreement would alleviate the alienation of the Catholic minority in the north, undercutting support for the IRA and its bloody campaign to drive the British from Ulster.
The parliament is widely expected to ratify the deal in a vote Friday despite the objections of the opposition Fianna Fail party. A debate is scheduled for next week in the British parliament, where Thatcher has already received wide support for the pact.