29 July 2004 Edition

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Racists force families to move

Three Nigerian men fled their Coolfin Street home in the loyalist Village area of South Belfast at the weekend after a explosive device was found in the rear of their home.

The device, left by unionist paramilitaries, was discovered by one of the occupants shortly before 7.30am on Friday 23 July.

The men, who have lived in the house for two years, stood outside as they waited for their home to be made safe by a British Army bomb disposal team, while the rest of their possessions were packed into a PSNI van. The three men were taken to emergency accomodation.

The three were traumatised and are not planning to return to the street.

A brother of one of the victims could not understand what motovated the racist thugs. "We try to communicate with the community to ask them why but nobody knows the reason. Everytime things like this happen it's very depressing".

This attack came within 24 hours of a loyalist petrol bomb attack on a Bangladeshi family in the same area.

Mohamid Hossain, his wife and five-year-old daughter were alseep and escaped serious injury when two petrol bombs were thrown at their home in Fane Street, off the Lisburn Road at around 2.20am on Thursday 22 July by unionist paramilitaries.

Firefighters had to extinguish the blaze after two petrol bombs hit a front bedroom window, causing scorch damage to the window, front door and surrounding areas.

Hossain said his family has been the victim of a relentless campaign of racist violence since they moved into the house, but he dosen't know why these people have targeted his family.

"I have never done any harm to them. It is an ongoing problem, as I have been attacked about 20 times in that house. They tried to burn my house, they broke my windows, they smashed my door with a baseball bat. I don't know why they are doing this to me."

The family stayed in emergency Housing Executive accommodation for the remainder of the night.

Sinn Féin South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey said unionist leaders needed to do more to tackle the problem of racist attacks.

"A toleration by unionist politicians of blatant sectarianism and of sectarian intimidation in south Belfast gives the green light to those elements within the unionist community who wish to carry out racist attacks," he said.

"Sectarianism and racism are two sides of the same coin and must be confronted with equal vigour if we are to build a truly inclusive city. That is the challenge for all of us, but I have to say particularly for many unionist political leaders at this time.'

It has emerged there have been 149 racially motivated incidents across the Six Counties in the last four months.

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