Thousands of extra police mount racist bomb watch

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The Independent Online
POLICE FORCES across Britain will today mount their biggest ever anti-racist operation with hundreds of extra officers providing a visible street presence.

They are acting in response to fears that the individual or group responsible for the nail bombs in Brixton and Brick Lane in London, injuring 45 people, may strike for a third successive Saturday afternoon.

As well as extra patrols involving beat officers, police vehicles and horses, undercover detectives, volunteers and traffic wardens, several areas with large ethnic communities, such as Southall in west London, have set up their own "civil guards".

Close consultations have taken place all week between the police and ethnic communities amid growing concerns that the campaign may eventually be taken out of London. Extra patrols are being set up in cities including Bristol, Liverpool, Bradford, Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow and Birmingham.

David Veness, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that in London alone there would be hundreds of extra officers on duty."Our intention will be to deploy significant, highly visible resources to detect and deter these crimes," he said.

In Southall, dozens of volunteers will patrol the streets and markets in an attempt to prevent the nail bombers bringing their hate campaign to the community. The threat is real enough; the area is home to Britain's biggest Asian population - mainly Punjabi Sikhs, but also Hindus and Pakistani Muslims - and it was named as a target in a letter from Combat 18, one of the neo-Fascist groups that claimed responsibility for the bombs.

Many remember 4 July 1981, when two coachloads of skinheads came to Southall to hear a Fascist band perform in the Hanborough Tavern. To get in the mood they rampaged through the suburb, smashing windows and beating up "Pakis".

When police failed to materialise, hundreds of Asian youths gathered in the main street, the Broadway. They fought the gang with fists and bricks, and burnt down the pub. The skinheads fled, never to return.

The incident highlights Southall's tradition of stubborn resistance to racist violence. Today, residents are prepared to fight back once again.

Fears focus on today, as the bombs of the past fortnight both exploded on busy Saturday afternoons. But in recent days many residents have stayed at home rather than court an unseen danger. Yesterday, cars moved freely along the Broadway, usually clogged with traffic. The pavements, often so crowded that they cannot be negotiated with a child's pushchair, were quiet. In the shops selling fabrics and spices, traders waited disconsolately for custom. "Business has gone dead," said Liaquat Ali in his empty jewellery shop. "Everyone is scared."

In Manchester, which is still recovering from the effects of the IRA bomb which devastated the city centre three years ago, fears are also running high. In the West Midlands, 4,000 posters - written in nine languages - were put up yesterday calling for extra vigilance. In Bradford, Istiaq Ahmed, director of the city's race Equality Council, said: "There is a great deal of concern... We feel that Bradford could be the next target."

t A man was yesterday released on bail after being questioned by detectives hunting the nailbomber. Police had arrested the man, of east London, on Thursday just hours after they released photographs of a man who is the prime suspect for the explosion in Brixton. The suspect, a white man in his twenties wearing a white baseball cap, was filmed by security cameras shortly before the explosion as he walked around the area at the south London market to where the nail bomb was left on Saturday 17 April.

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