Race attack alleged in Asian shopkeeper’s death in Bristol

February 19th, 2008 - 9:37 am ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Feb 19 (IANS) An arson attack that killed an Asian shopkeeper and nearly wiped out his family at the weekend is being described by his Bristol neighbours as racially motivated. Naseer Sayeed, 46, died of his injuries at the Bristol Royal Infirmary Sunday after a two-storey building containing his shop and home in the Knowle area of Bristol was set on fire early Friday. Five members of the family were sleeping in the flat above the ground-floor convenience shop when the suspected arson attack took place, police said. According to reports, one man jumped out of a first floor window.

Sayeed’s 21-year-old daughter Nisha Nasir was said to be in a critical condition and a 67-year-old unidentified family member was in hospital with serious injuries.

A 32-year-old local man was taken into custody. Seven others who were arrested earlier were released pending further enquiries.

The attack has shocked people in the area, according to the local media. Residents claimed racism is rife in the area, and that the family was subjected to a “campaign of hate” from local gangs after moving into the area two years ago.

Jasmine Dirk, who runs a nearby shop, said: “It is out of control around here. The family in the newsagents was very quiet and kept themselves to themselves. But the yobs kept on and on at them. They had their windows smashed, they had the word Paki written all over their cars.”

“They were physically attacked when they tried to stop people stealing. They were being terrorised - just because of the colour of their skin.”

Neighbour Pam James said: “I just don’t know what’s in the mind of whoever did it. I can’t believe I live next door to it.

“That shop’s been there ever since we’ve been here. They wouldn’t harm anybody. Who could have had it in for them I just don’t know.”

Detective Superintendent Nigel Rock, who is leading the investigation, said: “Due to the injuries sustained by the victim, we have treated this incident with the utmost seriousness since Friday and this has now become a murder investigation.”

“We are keeping an open mind as to the motive behind this incident, including the possibility that it could be racially motivated. There are other lines of inquiry that are emerging from the initial fire service investigation and it is important to stress that we are also following all of these,” he added.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: “Claims concerning racially aggravated crimes are taken very seriously.”

Responding to reports of other racially motivated incidents in the area, Superintendent Ian Smith said: “We are aware of some of the issues surrounding the local area.”

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