Police hunt racist over arson attacks on shops

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The Independent Online

A racist who has firebombed at least three Asian shops in the past month was responsible for the attack on a store on Thursday last week that killed one man and critically injured another, police said.

The serial arsonist has been linked to three daytime attacks on shops in south London using almost identical Molotov cocktail-type devices.

The latest attack was on Thursday afternoon in Kennington, south London, when a man was spotted by officers in a nearby police station throwing a firebomb into the shop front. Two officers gave chase but the suspect got away. Khizar Hayat, 40, who had five childre, died in the attack. He had run to the back of the shop with another worker after the attack. Mr Hayat, a teacher, came to the UK from Pakistan to earn money after his family was badly affected by the earthquake in Kashmir last October.

The other man is in a serious condition, and another two shop workers escaped with minor burns.

Police described the suspect as black and barrel-chested, in his mid-30s and between 5ft 5in and 5ft 8in tall. He fits the description of the man seen attacking two other shops in south London earlier this month.

The first took place at a newsagents in Tulse Hill in mid-April when a bottle filled with petrol was thrown into the premises and struck the legs of a customer, who suffered burns.

The second took place at an off-licence in South Norwood on 20 April, where a lit bottle with petrol was thrown into the premises, but no one was injured.

Detective Superintendent Dick Heselden, of the Metropolitan Police, said yesterday: "I am working on the basis that these are racially motivated attacks. It is my opinion that we are dealing with a serial firebomber who is targeting small Asian businesses.

"We must catch him before he commits another arson attack ... We need everyone's help to identify and catch the individual ..."

Police believe the man is from Croydon or the Lambeth area of London.