Warning as shops targeted in fire blitz

21/12/2004 - 09:00:01

Police chiefs in Northern Ireland today warned that people’s lives were being put at risk by a spate of firebombs.

Assistant Chief Constables Duncan McCausland and Peter Sheridan issued a joint appeal to shoppers and retailers to be extra vigilant after incendiary devices were discovered in stores across the North.

They launched a fierce attack on the dissident republicans believed to be responsible for the recent incendiary devices, which have caused serious damage and major disruption.

“Lives could have been lost or people seriously injured. The quick thinking of staff and the emergency services has prevented this so far but we cannot be complacent,” they said in a joint statement.

They urged business owners and managers to review security measures and check premises thoroughly both during and after trading.

“All right-thinking people should be appalled by these attacks. As the season of goodwill approaches, some elements of society are intent on causing destruction and putting lives at risk.

“These attacks also threaten the jobs of ordinary people in communities across Northern Ireland.”

The statement followed the destruction of a large store in a suspected firebomb attack on the outskirts of north Belfast.

The blaze broke out in the stationery section of the Poundstretcher shop in Newtownabbey shortly before midnight.

As fire crews arrived to fight the blaze, it threatened to spread to nearby electrical premises.

It was the latest in a series of incidents which have sparked fears of a Christmas bombing blitz in the province.

Although the cause of the fire has not yet been established, keyholders of stores in the vicinity were urged by police to return and check their premises for incendiary devices.

Yesterday it was confirmed that a blaze at a major DIY store was caused by an incendiary bomb.

The B&Q superstore on the Sprucefield retail park outside Lisburn, Co Antrim, was extensively damaged in an overnight fire.

It took more than 100 firefighters several hours to get the blaze, which started in the rugs department, under control.

The rest of the store, which opened earlier this year, was damaged by smoke and water from the sprinkler system.

Police called those responsible for the arson attack “mindless criminals”.

Lisburn district commander, Chief Inspector Ken Henning, urged all businesses to exercise “extreme vigilance”.

Last night, a partially-exploded incendiary bomb was discovered by staff in a Homebase DIY store in Derry.

Only minor damage was caused to the shop on the Crescent Link retail park.

Police urged store holders throughout the city to return to their premises and search them for incendiary bombs.

Meanwhile, a fire which caused (euro)145,000 damage to a carpet store at another retail park in Derry on Sunday morning is also believed to be the result of arson, though forensic tests have so far proved inconclusive.

Another viable device was found in a sports shop in Newry, Co Down, on Saturday night.

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