Murder blaze may be linked to Asian vendetta

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The Independent Online

Murder squad detectives were questioning four people last night in connection with an arson attack yesterday that killed seven people, including five young sisters. It is thought to have arisen out of a grudge within the Asian community in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Murder squad detectives were questioning four people last night in connection with an arson attack yesterday that killed seven people, including five young sisters. It is thought to have arisen out of a grudge within the Asian community in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Witnesses saw three or four Asian men throwing missiles from the garden into a window and front door of the house where the girls, aged six months to 13 years, and their grandfather – a respected retired imam – were among 11 occupants.

The girls, who also included a two-year-old, a six-year-old and a 10-year-old, were trapped upstairs when the fire, possibly fed by accelerants, was started in two places at ground level and rapidly destroyed the staircase. Four adults managed to escape but two adults perished with the girls. Police would not say if the girls' mother was among the victims, though their grandparents have survived.

Det Supt Bob Bridgestock, who is leading the investigation, said the sound of breaking glass, then voices, had been heard before the attack, shortly before 2am. "A resident called out and shouted at three, possibly four, Asian males, aged 18 to 20 years, who were in the garden of the house." Police have discounted a racial motive for the attack.

The girls' grandfather, 65-year-old Aziz Chishti, was a popular imam at the local mosque before retiring seven years ago because of heart problems. His three-bedroom house was used to teach religious instruction to many residents in Birkby, a cosmopolitan area of Huddersfield.