Fires were discovered at the Reject Shop and Waterstone's booksellers in The Galleries shopping centre at around 4am, but were quickly extinguished. They caused only minor damage.
No warning was given and there was little to suggest who was behind the attack. It is understood that, although terrorism has not been ruled out, police are also treating a straightforward arson attack as a possibility. The national anti-terrorist squad has been informed, but not called in, and an Army bomb squad was on stand-by last night as the search continued.
Terry Grange, Avon and Somerset's acting assistant chief constable of operations, said film from security video cameras was being viewed for clues. He said fire brigade and security officers had been alerted by an internal alarm and saw smoke coming from a display of deckchairs in the Reject Shop. As they dealt with that fire, they saw flames coming from Waterstone's. A small fire was found inside a box of books.
A search of the 90 shops in the centre using sniffer dogs went on throughout the day. It was due to open for business as usual this morning.
Shopkeepers in adjoining premises in the surrounding Broadmead area were advised by police to check their premises carefully before opening. Extra officers have been drafted in.
Shopping centres around the country have proved a tempting target for firebombers, although Bristol has not previously been a target.Reuse content