Racial attacks escalate in North

Weekend arson attacks which badly damaged two homes were the latest in a string of racially motivated attacks.

The houses in south Belfast were set alight at around 3am yesterday. It is understood that the houses are normally occupied by Romanian and Pakistani families, although both were away for the holidays when the attacks took place.

Last weekend two Chinese families and one of African descent, were attacked by a gang in the Donegall Road area. Two Chinese women who were attacked were pregnant and one was expected to give birth on Christmas Day.

A man who was with them also had his nose broken when a brick was smashed into his face. Missiles were fired through the windows of two other houses in the area.

All three families, some with young children, fled their homes following the attacks.

The majority of racially motivated attacks have taken place this year in the Mid-Ulster area, where local unionist politicians organised opposition to the construction of a mosque.

The organisation behind racist incidents in the area was the White National Party, a breakaway faction of the neo-nazi British National Party.

It recently emerged that the BNP is planning its first electoral assault in the Six Counties. At least five candidates will run in the North's next local government elections.

BNP leader Nick Griffin has claimed his party has attracted significant support among the PSNI police and British Army soldiers in the North.

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