East Belfast 'race hate' campaign investigated

A window was broken at a house on Inverary Avenue in east Belfast

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The police have said a small group of people is behind an organised campaign of attacks against ethnic minorities in Sydenham, east Belfast.

Six homes have been attacked over the past 10 days - with three taking place within the past 24 hours.

Bricks were used to break windows overnight at homes in Inverary Drive, Sandbrook Park, and Victoria Court.

Earlier this month, three other homes in nearby streets were hit with bricks within a 15-minute period.

Police are treating all six incidents as hate crimes and have said they will step up patrols in the area.

'Intimidation'

The PSNI commander for east Belfast, Ch Insp Mark McEwan, told BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme that police believed the attacks were "targeted at members of minority communities".

"They've been intent on causing damage, on causing intimidation and fear, and reckless as to whether people were injured - including children who have been in the homes."

He added: "At this stage, we are following a number of lines of inquiry and we can't say who is carrying them out.

"We do believe it's a small group of people, because this is not reflective of the overall community feeling towards minority communities in east Belfast."

He said the victims have been offered additional measures to protect their homes, including CCTV.

'Extremely worrying'

The earlier attacks took place 10 days ago on Sunday 5 January.

Bricks were used to break front windows in two houses at Strandburn Park and another in nearby Victoria Avenue. Police said at the time that they believed those three attacks were linked.

Speaking after the latest incidents, East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle said "the growing number" of hate crime attacks in the area was "extremely worrying".

"I am outraged that anyone should be targeted for this kind of attack. Hate crime is completely unacceptable and rejected by the vast majority of people in east Belfast," the Alliance representative said.

"This will have been a traumatic experience for those targeted and I am relieved no-one was injured during these attacks.

'Disgraceful'

"I would urge anyone with information to contact the PSNI as soon as possible to ensure this growing threat is removed from our streets," Mr Lyttle added.

DUP councillor Gavin Robinson visited residents in Inverary Drive where one of the attacks took place.

"Two weeks ago the community in Sydenham came together in response to the threat of flooding. That, rather than these disgraceful attacks, is a true reflection of the community in this area," Mr Robinson said.

"The victims of these attacks must know that the local community stands with them and in opposition to those who demonstrate such hate and intolerance."

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