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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 14:10 GMT
Racist attack was 'hate crime'
A six foot plank shattered a window in the house
A six foot plank shattered a window in the house

A racist attack on a south Belfast Pakistani family, including a pregnant woman, has been condemned as a "hate crime" by the police.

A six foot wooden plank was thrown through the front window of a house in Tavanagh Street in the loyalist Village area.

A man and his sister-in-law, who is eight and a half months pregnant, were in the house at the time of Wednesday evening's attack.

The area where they had been eating a short time earlier was showered in glass. They were left badly shocked.

The family had only moved into the house hours before the attack, which is the latest in a spate of such incidents against ethnic groups in the area.

Inspector Darrin Jones of the PSNI said police patrols had been increased.

"There doesn't seem to be any respect for people's culture, colour and race," he added.

"We refer to it as hate crime and that's basically what it is."

Inspector Darrin Jones
Inspector Darrin Jones: Police patrols in area have been increased
He appealed to the public, and people who had an influence in the community, to help the police combat such crimes.

An anti-racism rally is planned for Belfast City Hall later this month.

It is also hoped the Loyalist Commission can be persuaded to help stop the attacks.

South Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey has warned that someone will die if racial attacks in the area do not stop.

Mr Maskey, a former lord mayor of Belfast , claimed the attacks in the Village and Donegall Road area were not "isolated incidents".

"They are part of a campaign of violence and intimidation aimed at driving ethnic minority communities out of these areas," he said.

"This campaign has to stop. If it does not then I have a real fear that someone will be killed."

Duncan Morrow of the Community Relations Council said educating people and getting proper legislation in place were key issues in addressing the problem.

Alex Maskey: Condemned the attacks

"I think we have a lazy toleration of racism in this community and that has got to stop, because clearly people are under attack," he said.

"This is now very serious, as it's becoming regular."

SDLP assembly member for south Belfast Carmel Hanna condemned such incidents.

She added: "Multi-culturalism and diversity is a fact of life in the modern world and should be embraced and not just tolerated.

"Sad to say, I have never seen such levels of hatred as there are now."

Ulster Unionist assembly member for south Belfast Michael McGimpsey also condemned the attack.

He said: "This is a despicable incident and those responsible are evil in the extreme."

Police said separate attacks in south Belfast in December were racist.

Two houses in the Donegall Road and Coolsin Street areas were badly damaged after being set on fire.

The houses were occupied by Romanian and Pakistani families, but both were away on holiday.

Also last month, two Chinese families and a Ugandan family were forced to leave their homes in the village area after being targeted on the same night.

At the time, the police did not rule out loyalist paramilitary involvement.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Conor MacAuley reports
"Within hours of moving in, the family was fleeing their new home"



SEE ALSO:
Pregnant women in 'racial attack'
21 Dec 03  |  Northern Ireland
Ignorance blamed for 'racial attack'
22 Dec 03  |  Northern Ireland
NI 'needs to tackle racism'
21 Mar 03  |  Northern Ireland
NI 'needs anti-racism forum'
10 Dec 02  |  Northern Ireland


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