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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Fire at church 'suspected arson'
fire engine
A fire at a Baptist church in County Down is being treated as suspicious, police have said.

Downpatrick Baptist Church at Church Street was extensively damaged in the blaze which happened at about 1800 BST on Saturday evening.

Police and fire officers have been unable to enter the building so far because it is too dangerous.

Pastor Joseph White, who helped build the church more than 40 years ago, said his congregation were very upset.

"My granddaughter rang me and said there was a fire, when we came down it was practically burned out," he said.

"Our main thoughts were of the memories we have had there over the years, it is a bitter regret to see it going like that."

SDLP councillor Colin McGrath said this was an unprovoked attack on the Baptist community.

"It is entirely possible that they may think that, because of these attacks, in some shape or form they are not welcome in Down district," he said.

"I certainly want to assure them that is not the case. These are the actions of one two or three individuals and are certainly not reflective of the community."

Police have appealed to anyone who saw anything suspicious to contact them.

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