Bombs blast British shops

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The Independent Online
A British chain of opticians has been hit by a bombing campaign thought to have been inspired by one of the Mafia-style gangs proliferating in the former Soviet Union. Three stores owned by Vision Express in Lithuania were attacked.

The company, which also has stores in Russia, Latvia and Poland, and 120 in Britain, said it had received no demands for payment in return for protection before the bombings, a common tactic in Mafia-style extortionist gangs. But the suspicion remained that the firm had been targeted as part of a wave of organised crime which has hit the Lithuania state since the collapse of Communism.

Dean Butler, the head of Vision Express, said: "We are pleased to say that all three stores are trading as usual this morning and it does not appear to have deterred our customers."

The blasts on Monday took place almost simultaneously in the capital, Vilnius, the second city, Kaunas, and the northern town of Panevezhys. No one was hurt. The Panevezhys store had its doors and windows blown out. A spokesman for the Lithuanian interior ministry said that at the scene of the blast in Kaunas a grenade ring was found.

A man was arrested in Vilnius and was believed to be a resident of Panevezhys, known as a hotbed of organised crime and where gang shoot-outs are common.

Vision Express, based in Nottingham, set up the first of its four stores in Lithuania last year. It also has shops in Argentina, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland.

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