Benburb monastery arson attack 'nasty and vicious'

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Image caption,
The cars were set alight on Sunday morning

An assembly member has said people are at a loss to understand why a pastoral centre in County Tyrone was targeted in an arson attack on Sunday.

Four cars were destroyed outside the Servite Priory in Benburb. The attack was reported at about 0450 GMT.

The fire also caused extensive damage to the front of the building, which is owned by the Catholic Servite Order.

SDLP MLA Tommy Gallagher said it was fortunate no-one was injured in the "nasty and vicious attack".

"Somebody lobbed a brick through one of the car windows and set the car alight and, of course, the fire spread to adjoining cars and to the building," he said.

"The local community turned up for Mass yesterday, as they do every day, and they just found this horrific scene and nobody knows why it happened.

"Certainly it's the first time there's been an attack of this kind. All through the Troubles this monastery was regarded as a safe haven."

Mr Gallagher said the building was also used as a rehabilitation centre for people with addictions.

"It was just by the grace of God that there wasn't more serious damage and there weren't any injuries," he added.

Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliot also condemned the attack, calling it a "disgraceful and shameful act".

"I join the police in calling for any witnesses or people with any information to contact them," he said.