Attack on restaurant was 'race incident'

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The Independent Online

An Indian restaurant was attacked yesterday, hours before the head of the Metropolitan Police sought to reassure Muslims that they would be protected from attacks.

Two petrol bombs were thrown at the Beckash restaurant in Wickford, Essex, just before 1am, setting the front of the building alight. The five people upstairs in the restaurant, who were all Muslim, were unhurt and the fire did not spread.

A white man was seen fleeing. Although Essex Police have not officially linked the arson to the terrorism attacks on America, they are treating it as a racially motivated attack.

It is the latest in a series of attacks on mosques and Muslims since the hijacks. The worst left an Afghan taxi driver paralysed after he was beaten up in London, while in Swin- don an Asian woman was hit on the head with a baseball bat and in Glasgow a Muslim woman was attacked with a bottle. Several mosques have received abusive phone calls or have been daubed with graffiti and a petrol bomb was thrown into a mosque in Manchester.

Sir John Stevens, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, met Muslim leaders at the Central Mosque in London yesterday and told them 1,500 extra police would be patrolling this weekend. One community leader, Ibrahim El Nour, said: "There are a lot of concerns in the Muslim community about victimisation and harassment, and it is good that the police are taking these fears so seriously."

The National Union of Teachers warned members yesterday to expect tension in classrooms and attacks on Muslim teachers by pupils.